Chapter 46

Three Stones

“According to the notes made by your various ancestors over the generations, the completed gem is one half of the key that will open the door to the temple.” Oliver sat back in the wicker chair and looked at Jeanne across the minimalist white wood table.

The hotel was located on the outskirts of Aurangabad, about half an hour from the caves. It catered to tourists who had come to view the famous temples and shrines of the surrounding region, with small, but reasonably priced and clean rooms, complimentary maps of nearby sites, and a staff that was all too willing to book their guests on tours or provide consultations with local spiritual guides.

“Yes. That’s why I needed to find all three parts. I tried to open the door once before, using only the portion of the gem that my family retrieved from Britain, but I was not exactly successful.”

“What happened?”

“I brought my diamond to the temple, just as my ancestor Edward Walsh did in 1867. Like him, I placed it in the palms of the meditating woman and spoke the words of the ancient invocation.”

Jeanne halted, recalling the sense of failure that had washed through her that day, even though she had not expected that she would be any more successful than her great-granduncle Edward had. She let out a long, low whistle of frustration and said, “And the door did not open.”

“Then how are you certain that this is all true? How do you know that there is a curse?”

“I said it didn’t open, not that there was no door. The moment that I spoke the words the face of the carved stone trembled and I felt…” she halted again, trying to find the words.

“You felt?”

“I felt strange. Like a sheet of invisible plastic wrap pressed against the front of my entire body, pulled tight, then bounced back without breaking or enveloping me.”

“That is strange,” Oliver said.

Jeanne leaned forward and pulled a the chain around her neck until the two gemstones she wore on it tugged free of the collar of her grey t-shirt. She gripped one of the gems between two fingers and held it up between them. “This is the stone that my ancestors stole from Daniel Eliason in 1820. You read about that in the journal, I assume.”

Oliver paused to recall the pertinent name, then nodded and said, “Yes. I believe it was your ancestor Phillip Walsh who employed a prostitute to seduce Eliason and steal the diamond from him, after hearing of the gem from their mutual friend John Francillion.”

“You’ve just reduced pages of careful notes and months of cautious planning to a single sentence, but I suppose you’ve captured the essence of the affair.”

“Do you expect any better from me by now?” Oliver said, laughing.

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