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Summer of the Dragon

Cover of Summer of the Dragon

Summer of the Dragon

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A good salary and an all-expenses-paid summer spent a sprawling Arizona ranch is too good a deal for fledgling anthropologist D.J. Abbott to turn down. What does it matter that her rich new employer/benefactor, Hank Hunnicutt, is a certified oddball who is presently funding all manner of off-beat projects, from alien conspiracy studies to a hunt for dragon bones? There's even talk of treasure buried in the nearby mountains, but D.J. isn't going to allow loose speculation -- or the considerable charms of handsome professional treasure hunter Jesse Franklin -- to sidetrack her. Until Hunnicutt suffers a mysterious accident and then vanishes, leaving the weirdos gathered at his spread to eye each other with frightened suspicion. But on a high desert search for the missing millionaire, D.J. is learning things that may not be healthy for her to know. For the game someone is playing here goes far beyond the rational universe -- and it could leave D.J. legitimately dead.

A good salary and an all-expenses-paid summer spent a sprawling Arizona ranch is too good a deal for fledgling anthropologist D.J. Abbott to turn down. What does it matter that her rich new employer/benefactor, Hank Hunnicutt, is a certified oddball who is presently funding all manner of off-beat projects, from alien conspiracy studies to a hunt for dragon bones? There's even talk of treasure buried in the nearby mountains, but D.J. isn't going to allow loose speculation -- or the considerable charms of handsome professional treasure hunter Jesse Franklin -- to sidetrack her. Until Hunnicutt suffers a mysterious accident and then vanishes, leaving the weirdos gathered at his spread to eye each other with frightened suspicion. But on a high desert search for the missing millionaire, D.J. is learning things that may not be healthy for her to know. For the game someone is playing here goes far beyond the rational universe -- and it could leave D.J. legitimately dead.

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  • Chapter One

    I went to Arizona that summer for my health. Talk about irony...

    No, I don't have asthma, or anything like that. What I had-and still have, for that matter -- was a bad case of parents. Two of them.

    Mind you, they are marvelous. I love them. Separately they are unnerving but endurable. Together ... disaster, sheer disaster. Ulcermaking. Productive of high blood pressure, nervous tension, hives, indigestion, and other psychosomatic disorders.

    I had not meant to mention my parents. I don't Want to hurt their feelings. However, there is no way of accounting for my presence at Hank Hunnicutt's ranch that summer unless I make unkind remarks about Mother and Dad. Pride prevents me from allowing anyone to suppose I went there of my own free will. Oh, well. It's unlikely that they would read a book like this. Mother only reads cookbooks and Barbara Cartland; Dad has never been discovered with any volume less esoteric than the Journal of Hellenic Studies.

    I am not knocking my mother's literary tastes. She is probably the best cook in the entire Western world, and if, after a life which has included economic depression, World War II, and assorted personal tragedies, she can still believe in Barbara Cartland, then more power to her. I wouldn't mind her believing in Ro-mance, with the accent on the first syllable, if she didn't try to foist her opinions on me.

    Mother thinks every nice girl ought to get married, read cookbooks, and have lots of children so she can be a grandmother. I don't know why she expects me to produce the grandchildren. I have four brothers and sisters. But I'm the oldest, and Mother's grandmotherly instincts began to burgeon when I hit puberty.

    Dad thinks that every nice girl, and every nice boy, and all the boys and girls who aren't nice, should be archaeologists. He can't really understand why anyone would want to do anything else. He feels that there are too many people in the world anyway, so if they would just stop perpetuating themselves, then they could all live in the houses that have already been built, and grow just enough food to give themselves the strength to perform mankind's most vital endeavor -- digging things up.

    If he had left me alone, I might have turned out to be a classical archaeologist. It was a case of overkill. The first toy I can remember playing with was not a doll, or a toy train, or a stuffed kitty. It was a Greek stater. (That's an ancient silver coin.) The reason why I remember it is because I swallowed it, and the ensuing hullaballoo, left a deep impression on my infant mind.

    My room, during my formative years, was a horrible mixture of my parents' tastes. Mother contributed dons that wet their diapers and threw up. Dad sneaked in copies of antique statues. The walls were hung with drawings of Winme the Poch and photographs of the Parthenon. When I outgrew my crib, Mother bought me a canopied bed with ruffles dripping from the top. And Dad found, God knows where, a bedspread with heads of Roman emperors printed on it.

    So it went, all the way along: cooking lessons from Mother, visits to museums with Dad. It's no wonder that when I went to college I promptly flunked the introductory Greek course.

    At the time I was absolutely crushed. I studied for that course. My God, how I studied! Six hours a day. Id go in for an exam, smugly sure that I had memorized every ending of every declension, and then my mind would go totally blank. I can see now why it happened, but five years ago, when I was eighteen, I could only conclude that I was hopelessly stupid. I contemplated slashing my wrists. I mean, one takes things so seriously at that age.

About the Author-
  • Elizabeth Peters earned her Ph.D. in Egyptology from the University of Chicago's famed Oriental Institute. She was named Grand Master at the inaugural Anthony Awards in 1986 and Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1998. In 2003, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Malice Domestic Convention. She lives in a historic farmhouse in western Maryland.

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Elizabeth Peters
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