Read part of Chapter One

© Copyright 2005 RM Abram

The gold-domed clock ticked placidly on its polished shelf behind the dining room table.  Susan Gordon glanced vaguely toward it, ignoring its unique form, disregarding promises of both blessings and curses.  Only one promise, the broken one, occupied present thoughts.

"Where is he?" she murmured aloud, her smooth brow creasing into a frown.

Minutes passed, precious time slipping away, the clock's relentless monotone mocking a mother's concern.  Susan glared at the fixture, redirecting her irritation.  Why had she been taken in by so bizarre an object?  What had happened to her usually impeccable taste?

Susan sighed, but a reminiscent twinkle brightened blue eyes, and memory drifted back to a more carefree day.  Another springtime.  A fresh breeze playing at her skirts as she walked along San Francisco's Jackson Square.  Sunshine prevented the intrusive shadows of past criminal dealings at that very spot.  Dismissing all shadows, especially specters from her own past, Susan paused in pleasant anticipation on the steps of an exclusive import shop.  Categorizing the style--restored Victorian--she approved its historical authenticity and attention to detail.  Would the Italian import inside inspire equal admiration?

The proprietor promptly intercepted her at the entrance.  "Ah, Mrs. Gordon, I've been expecting you."

"Good day, Mr. Tyson.  I understand a certain new arrival awaits my endorsement."

"Yes, indeed.  Such an exceptional piece of artistry, and arrived only this morning.  Come, I've displayed it for your inspection."

Susan followed the man to the back of the room, amused to see an engraved Sold card leaning discreetly against the white queen.  Delight replaced amusement as she observed the table's pedestal support, a single fluted Corinthian column.

Mr. Tyson correctly interpreted her restrained reaction.  "Isn't your most impressive Reception Room designed in the Classical style?  This collection will feel at home while contributing its own special cachet."

Susan didn't reply as both eyes and fingers caressed the superbly inlaid squares of onyx and alabaster.  She picked up a few pieces of the matching chessmen fashioned in worthy replica of Rome's ancient warriors.  A close examination revealed no flaws.

"Nice," she commended mildly.  "When may I expect delivery?"

"This very afternoon."  Mr. Tyson paused before gesturing with open hand.  "Feel free to view our new items.  We've acquired several excellent imports since your last visit."

Ordinarily, Susan might have browsed, but nothing interested her at the moment except the chess set.  She reached down to touch again its satin-cool contours when a flash of gold caught her eye.

"A clock.  How curious..."



And compelling.  Without pausing to analyze, she moved closer in response to an insistent, yet sweet whisper commanding her attention. Something deep inside her recognized that beckoning voice.  The actual words maintained distance, however, an indistinct echo trapped within confining walls.  While she searched through the mental mist for clarity, an idea materialized--the promise of a vital message, one meant for her personally.  But certain conditions existed. The clock would release valuable information only to its owner.  Contemplating her position as such, Susan turned over the price tag.  Her involuntary gasp neatly dispelled the magnetic attraction.

"Count on you, Mrs. Gordon, to quickly ascertain our most exquisite item!  A rare jewel, this clock."

"No doubt, at that price."

Mr. Tyson flexed the band of his Rollex.  "But we know, don't we, Mrs. Gordon, that expense is not always the prime consideration?"

"My husband may not agree with that theory."

Mr. Tyson chuckled, obviously not taking her seriously.  Then his face resumed more serious lines.

"I need not tell one of your taste and expertise that this clock is the only one of its kind in existence."

"Mother-of-pearl inlay, I presume?  Brass casing."  She couldn't resist stroking the brilliant exterior.  "What is this blue stone?"

"Lapis lazuli."

"A truly Middle Eastern creation, then."

"And accompanied by typical Arabian mystery.  The clock's designer claimed commission from a bearded man in white robes."

"A rare sight," Susan quipped, "given that part of the world."

"Ah, but the eyes of this man actually glowed."

Susan hid a smile behind polished nails.  Amusement faded as she noted Mr. Tyson's earnest expression.  Surely the man didn't believe his own words?  The former mystique returned, even stronger.

"You look...worried," she probed.

"Merely hoping that I've done the right thing.  Responsibility for this clock weighs me down, Mrs. Gordon.  Frankly, I question my own judgment in displaying it openly like this."

Susan resisted the urge to look uneasily over her shoulder.

Mr. Tyson nervously adjusted his tie.  "What should I do?"

"I'm afraid I don't understand your dilemma."

"And dilemma it is!  I've become the caretaker of a magnificent though possibly dangerous item.  I can neither keep it for myself nor risk condemnation by allowing its transit into unworthy hands."


"And how am I to determine who is worthy or not?"  He wrung his own hands in clear agitation.  "This must be some sort of divine test.  That's what the daughter said."

"What daughter?  Mr. Tyson, stop talking in riddles!"

"I apologize, Mrs. Gordon, but this clock truly worries me.  The designer's daughter merely repeated her father's instructions given moments before his tragic death.  An evil enemy, seeking treasure..."



"I've no wish to hear of a dark enemy," Susan interrupted.  "What of the robed figure, the man who commissioned the clock?"

"That is the mystery.  He never returned to collect his prize.  But, as documented by the designer, this clock belongs ultimately to him."  Mr. Tyson pulled a key from his vest pocket and unlocked a small drawer cleverly concealed in the clock's decorative brass base. "The designer penned a few final instructions before he died.  You'll see his original words followed by an English translation.  Truthfully, Mrs. Gordon, I've not given any other patron access to this information."

Mr. Tyson moved discreetly away.  Intrigued, Susan opened the miniature scroll and stared at the graceful Arabic script before reading the translation.  The detailed description of the man in white robes sparked her imagination.  She felt him materialize beside her, warming her with his luminescent gaze, quietly affirming his ownership yet offering her temporary stewardship of his masterpiece.  The designer's final words seemed to leap out at her.

The hands of this clock represent the return journey home and the path every mortal must experience.  Even as the creator seeks reunion with his masterpiece, so does the father welcome the return of his lost child.  Those who assist the progress of so prized a possession back into the Master's hand shall ascend beyond the stars.  Those who tarnish its splendor or interrupt the circuit shall wither into dust.  Inshallah.  As God wills.

Susan shivered, a wave of sensation that continued even as she replaced the scroll within the brass drawer.  Her hand resting lightly on the clock's primary brass dome, she speculated about the designer and his grieving daughter forced to sell the masterpiece to foreign dealers.  Or was this separation a necessary element of the journey?  For just an instant, Susan's mental vision expanded.  She identified the clock as symbolic in an ultimate design, its journey representing a magnificent odyssey transcending time.

A gushing exclamation jerked Susan away from the threshold of understanding.  She reached desperately for the diminished strands of discernment, in vain.  Her eyes narrowed in both disappointment at the loss and distaste as a loud, overdressed woman sailed into view.

"Lah, Herman!  Look at that darling clock!"

Herman looked, then turned to his wife with a set smile.

"It...uh...definitely is...uh...unique," he stuttered, turning over the price tag.  The color drained from his face.  "And pricey!"

"If Bernie can afford imports from this shop, so can we."

Mr. Tyson stepped forward, looking directly at Susan.  She both understood and shared his unspoken appeal.  Could that flamboyant female ever value the clock's fine workmanship and elegant symmetry? Would she assist its journey or tarnish its splendor?  Susan perceived the answer in the woman's coarse behavior.

"Are you Jewish?" she asked unexpectedly.

Lipstick-smeared teeth bared in a false grin.  "Why do you ask?"

Susan shrugged, an elegant yet dismissive gesture.  "I merely wondered at your interest in this obviously Semitic clock."

"I collect Ay-rab artifacts.  This clock will look simply divine with my new Bokharra rug.  I'll display it right next to the silver coffeepot once owned by a very naughty sheikh."