The Serpent's Daughter, страница 1
Table of Contents
OTHER BOOKS IN THE JADE DEL CAMERON SERIES
Mark of the Lion Stalking Ivory
Published by New American Library, a division of
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First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, January 2008
Copyright © Suzanne Arruda, 2008
All rights reserved
OBSIDIAN and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA:
Arruda, Suzanne Middendorf, 1954-
The serpent’s daughter : a Jade Del Cameron mystery / Suzanne Arruda.
eISBN : 978-0-451-22465-1
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This book is dedicated to the real “Bert boys,”
James and Michael, who soar as eagles.
I love you guys.
MY THANKS TO the Pittsburg State University Axe Library Interlibrary Loan staff for all the books; National Wild Turkey Federation’s Women in the Outdoors program for continuing opportunities to experience aspects of Jade’s adventuresome life; Terry (Tessa) McDermid for her help as my writing buddy; Dr. John Daley and Neil Bryan for information on rifles and sidearms; Sgt. First Class David Brock for advice on handling a knife; Dr. Dan Zurek and Dr. Judy Berry-Bravo for help with the Spanish; Mssr. Arnaud Blanc-Nikolaïtchouk of Les Doyennes de Panhard et Levassor for his help with Jade’s Panhard; my brilliant sons for applying their aerospace engineering knowledge to my understanding of rigging Curtis JN-4 airplanes (Jennies); Mike and Nancy Brewer for original and inspired musical accompaniment to my Web and publicity CDs; my NAL publicists, Tina Anderson and Catherine Milne, for all their hard work; my agent, Susan Gleason, and my editor, Ellen Edwards, for their continued belief in the series; all my family: Cynthia, Dave, Nancy, The Dad, James, and Michael for helping me shamelessly promote the books. I especially wish to thank Joe, the greatest husband and web-master a writer could ever want, for all his help and support.
Any mistakes are my own, despite the best efforts of my excellent instructors.
TANGIER, MOROCCO, April 1920
Morocco is a land of contradictions. Desert and oasis,
palaces and clay huts. It is Africa, yet distinct from Africa. The Moroccans call it
the Maghreb, the ‘land of the western sun.’
“ONE SHOULD NEVER TRUST THE SHOPKEEPERS,” declared a young man seated across from Jade. “They will cheat you.”
Jade stifled a yawn and switched her attention from the busy Tangier streets below to the speaker. Woodard Kennicot’s creamy white linen suit and broad-brimmed boater-style straw hat blended visually with the scenery, but his yammering mouth clashed; his voice nasal, his tone condescending. And that hair. It’s like staring at an inferno. The blaze, she noted, continued in a small brush fire above his lips.
Why does Mother always have to hold court? Jade fidgeted in her chair. Mother had arrived just yesterday from America via London with the intention of wrangling an Andalusian stallion from her cousin to take back for stud on the family’s New Mexico ranch. This time she wanted Jade to join her, a prospect that didn’t thrill Jade. But when her mother had suggested they first meet in Tangier, rather than in Spain on her family’s estate, Jade had jumped at the opportunity. The social atmosphere in Andalusia was stifling at best, and visits home to their New Mexico ranch weren’t much better. Jade and her mother always ended up arguing about Jade’s life, her unladylike style of dress, and her short hair. But Tangier, Morocco, was a “neutral” spot, and Jade had hoped the two of them could come to an understanding. She prayed that her mother had become more accepting of, or at least resigned to, Jade’s chosen profession as photographer and writer for a magazine, The Traveler, and the life that entailed.
Their meeting last evening when her mother’s boat docked had been cordial enough. They had even managed to share a room last night without killing each other, thanks in part to her mother’s exhaustion. But instead of a quiet mother-and-daughter breakfast, Mrs. del Cameron seemed positively determined to introduce Jade to this hodgepodge of people who’d shared boat passage with her mother from America and England. Jade took a final sip of coffee from her delicate china cup and fidgeted with her crystal water glass.
To Jade’s right, Doñ
Jade sighed, and her mother noticed. “What is the matter, Jade?” she asked in a hushed aside.
Jade lied. She’d been thinking of her sixteenth birthday party. Jade had hoped for a barbecue and a hoedown. She even went so far as to invite their foreman and the ranch hands. But her mother had other plans: a sit-down banquet and ball. She invited the territorial governor and other, more local, dignitaries along with their stuffy sons, the youngest ten years older than Jade. Jade had pleaded with her father, but he just patted her hands and told her it was probably for the best, as if he were resigned to a boring evening himself.
Her mother had paraded Jade before the assembly until Jade felt like a filly on exhibit at a fair; she expected someone to place a bid on her at any moment. In the end, she told one young man, who spoke of nothing but his money and prospects, that he could bore a grizzly to death, and walked out of the room. After that, her mother forbade her to leave the house for a month. Why did I think this tour of Tangier would be any different?
“I was merely admiring the view, Mother. Perhaps I should take some photographs down by the beach while you visit? I know my magazine would appreciate it.”
“There will be time for that later, Jade,” pronounced Inez. “We have guests. How many times must I tell you that a hostess must make her guests feel welcome?” Inez nodded to Jade’s plate. “You haven’t finished your breakfast.”
“Yes, Mother.” Jade didn’t want to argue. There was no point to it. The only thing left to do was endure this brief stay in Morocco and the subsequent visit to Andalusia. Once her mother procured her desired Andalusian stud, Jade could go her own way with a clear conscience, knowing she’d done her best to make peace between them. She picked at the fruit basket and chose a small mandarin orange, the type many tourists called tangerines after this port city, which first shipped them to Europe. As she peeled it, she kept half her attention on the others at the table and the rest on that mesmerizing view below.
White-robed men scurried through Tangier’s narrow streets, while white-shrouded women haunted the screened, flat rooftops. Trace minerals in the stucco tinted the city’s older buildings a delicate pink, painting a youthful blush on the aged. Every dwelling butted against the next like plants, sending a new shoot to grow. Early morning shadows stretched from house to house, caressing them with cool blue fingers, often bending where one house rose or fell compared to its conjoined neighbor, but never breaking.
Liquid and light. Jade inhaled the invigorating scents of ocean air and fish and let her gaze drift from the jumble of cracker box buildings below her high terrace to the turquoise Straits of Magellan, speckled with sunlight and white sails. The only jarring note in this symphony of pure light and water was the steamship anchored offshore; that and Woodard Kennicot’s nasally voice.
“You’re so right about the Tangier shopkeepers, Mr. Kennicot, ” said Libby Tremaine, a tiny but pretty young American woman on her honeymoon with her husband, Walter. “One horrid-smelling man tried to overcharge me for a pair of leather slippers yesterday. I refused to buy them and walked away.” Her head bobbed emphatically, sending into motion the numerous assorted flowers on her hat. “He’ll think twice the next time he tries that.” She patted down the few strands of fine hair, the color of pale strawberries and golden dawn, that had broken free.
“I believe you are expected to bargain with the sellers,” said Jade. She sectioned her orange and popped one slice into her mouth.
“Applesauce! Whoever heard of such a thing?” remarked Mrs. Tremaine as she took a second croissant. “May I have the marmalade, please?” She flashed a brilliant smile at Patrido Blanco de Portillo, the Spanish merchant to Jade’s left, even though the jam pot sat closer to Jade’s right.
Inez picked up the bowl of marmalade, but when she reached across to hand it to Libby, her hand bumped both the salt cellar and the pepper pot, spilling a spray of black and white specks across the tablecloth. “Pardon me.” Inez scooped up a portion of the salt and tossed it behind her.
“Allow me to assist you,” said de Portillo. He swept up the remainder of the spilled seasonings, then exploded in a sneeze as he inadvertently flung stray pepper grains into his nostrils.
“God bless you,” said Chloe Kennicot primly. It was the first thing the woman had said during breakfast, deferring always to her husband.
“It is nothing. Only the pepper,” replied de Portillo with a sniff as he brushed the remaining errant grains from his silk cravat and sumptuous gray waistcoat. “But Miss del Cameron is correct. Bargaining is tantamount to a sport for the commoner.”
“Well, that’s a system that’s all balled up,” said Mr. Tremaine. “Sounds like a lot of bushwa to me. How am I to know when I am getting a bargain or am being cheated?” He glanced from one to another, as though seeking agreement, and stroked his baby-smooth chin.
“Being cheated is, unfortunately, the price one must pay, so to speak, when you leave the civilized familiarity of Europe and come to a barbaric city,” said Mr. Kennicot, arching one brow, the other lid drifting down to shade a gray-green eye against the morning sun. He sat stiffly upright with his hands tented, fingertips touching as though he were trying to look like an experienced man of the world about to issue an edict. His flaming red hair did nothing to assist that illusion. Jade thought he resembled a circus clown more than a serious world traveler.
“Barbaric?” exclaimed Jade. “Tangier’s about as barbaric as an egg timer.” She waved her hand to encompass the surrounding area. “We are sitting in a French café, dining on croissants, using the finest bone china and linens. Most of us are staying in either the Spanish or the French hotel, and across the street is another one owned by a Scotsman. The main newspaper is in Spanish, and every other person on the street is a European or an American. It’s no wonder the Moroccans call Tangier the infidel city. One might as well be in your civilized Europe.”
As she finished her speech, she noted her mother’s furrowed brow and tightly pursed lips, as clear a sign of exasperation as a cat’s twitching tail. “Of course, that’s just my opinion,” she added to try to soothe her mother’s irritation. “I understand Fez is very unique.” She finished her orange and prayed for breakfast to end.
“Do not be deceived by these familiar surroundings, Miss del Cameron,” said Mr. de Portillo. “A great deal of barbarism lies directly under the veneer.” He pointed to a small procession in the street below. “Do you see that man in the embroidered djellaba and the large turban, the fat one followed by the five young girls and the old woman?” Jade nodded. “And what do you make of them?” Patrido asked.
“Normally I would guess that the older woman is his wife and the girls are his daughters,” said Jade, “but here in Morocco I suppose those are all his wives.”
“And you would be wrong on both counts,” said the Spaniard. “I have seen that man many times in my trips here to purchase leathers. He is a slaver of sorts. Oh, rest assured he will have papers for the authorities that proclaim every one of those beauties as his daughters, but they are not. They are probably from Circassia or the Caucases, possibly Armenia. Their parents are likely poor and sold them off. He will take them into the interior with the old woman, who may in fact be his wife, to watch over them. Then they will be sold at market. Some will be house servants; others might become wives or concubines if they are pretty enough.”
“See here,” declared Woodard Kennicot. “I happen to know for a fact that the French stopped that practice several years ago.”
Patrido de Portillo bowed once, slowly. “Indeed they did, Mr. Kennicot. But the sales happen nonetheless. They are only less open, less regular than before.” He turned back to Jade. “So you see, Miss del Cameron, the Maghreb, the land of the western sun, is still barbaric.”
Libby half closed her eyes and sighed. “I suppose that’s what makes it seem so romantic. Like something out of Arabian Nights.”
“Are you touring some of the local sites in Morocco for your honeymoon, Mrs. Tremaine?” Inez asked.
“Walter is taking me to see the Caves of Hercules later today,” Libby replied.
“And we’ll take a gander at Volubilis, tomorrow,” added Mr. Tremaine, “before we travel to Marrakech. Both the caves and Volubilis are laced with Greek and Roman history. I studied both subjects at Yale, you know.”
Marrakech? Jade examined the bride with more interest. The young woman’s white gloves, long sleeves, and huge straw hat were designed to protect her alabaster skin and strawberry blond hair from the sun, but they wouldn’t help much in the desert or the mountains. She’ll cook like an egg on a hot rock.
“I understand that there are some interesting inscriptions on the cave walls,” said Mr. Kennicot. “They are in Greek, a language I read as a lowly student of scripture.” He nodded his head in a gesture meant to show humility. “Legend suggests they were written by Hercules himself.”
Jade chuckled. “Mark Twain has a humorous notation about that very fact in his book Innocents Abroad. He wrote that Hercules must not have traveled much or else he wouldn’t have kept a journal.” No one else laughed. In fact, Jade noted, most of them—all except her mother—stared at her with blank expressions. Jade cleared her throat. “Of course if you aren’t familiar with Twain’s writings, I don’t suppose it would mean much.” She picked up her fork and poked the orange rinds on her plate, wondering why she felt like a naughty child waiting for permission to leave the table.