Today is thursday, February 20th, 1996, my name is Werner Borchert. The following pages are an exact protocol of the occurrencies of the last three days. I will send them to a german friend of mine, the german notary Klaus Schoenfelder. He has strict orders to open the envelope only in case he hasn't heard of me for more than 30 days.
I have been writing for the "Archaeology Today" for four years. Three days ago, while I was working on an article about Mayan sacrifice rites, I was called into the office of our chief editor. I saved my files, then I slowly walked upstairs to the 3rd floor. There are enough reasons to worry when Mr. Richard wants to see one of his freelancers.
He's one of the people who never feels the need to greet you, unless you've at least just discovered a second Theben. After I had entered, he told me to shut the door, then he pointed to a paper that was laying on his desk. The title showed the picture of a woman with a long red ponytail in front of an Inca sculpture.
He pondered on the picture. "Have you read this article, Borchert?"
"No, not yet", I had to admit.
He handed me the paper. "Then do it now. We need an interview with this Croft woman!"
Of course I had heard of Lara Croft. She had inherited some million pounds and was an adventurer, who - under the pretense of archaeological studies - travelled the world and ravaged historical places. For all I knew there wasn't the slightest chance to get an interview from her. But you don't say 'no' to Mr. Richard.
The article mentioned the hometown of Lara Croft. I searched for her number, then I dialed. I doubted she was at home at all.
But after the third ring I had a woman's voice in the phone: "Lara Croft here." I cleared my throat, then I told her who I was and what I wanted. To my surprise she agreed to meet me in her mansion without hesitating. The terms: no photos, no recording, no questions concerning her private life.
The next day I took the first plane to London. In my baggage I had a notepad and a handful of sharpened pencils. My old Philips cassette-recorder and a noiseless digital mini-camera I kept for such occasions were secreted away in the bottom of the bag. It was late evening when I arrived at her mansion. No lamps anywhere, and the lights of the cab only allowed a glimpse on the old victorian style walls.
The complex was far larger than I had expected. A rusty iron gate prevented me from entering. Before I had put my finger on the doorbell the cab had turned and driven away. This was not my first aquaintance with darkness, but certainly the most unpleasant. After two minutes I heard footsteps on a gravel walk, then a shadow appeared at the gate.
I said yes, I am, and the gate was opened.
She was much smaller than I had pictured. Although I couldn't see much more than a silhouette, I could tell from the way she moved how well trained she was. I was led through a park, until we stopped before a door. She opened it and suddenly I found myself in a little office-like room. From the light of one little lamp I saw a small round table, two chairs, a desk and a bookshelf.
She smiled at me: "You had not expected me to let you into my private rooms, did you?"
She was without any doubt the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Her face, although not satisfying any classical ideal, had proportions of such perfection that it surely was enough to make a man stutter. An aura of cool dignity did the rest - at the same time I recognised some restlessness. Strangely enough, she wore exactly the same outfit as on the picture - a green bodysuit, brown latex pants, her little rucksack and even her pistols. While I sat down my fingertips touched the trigger of my little camera, that was hidden in my pocket. I felt a little like James Bond.
We talked about her last trip, during which she had found the tomb of the legendary Inca chief Qualopec. What she told was the most fantastic story I had ever heard - all on her own, this woman had explored long forgotten places that no living soul had entered for centuries, and had gone through almost unbelievable adventures. But the longer I listened, the more the feeling grew that she was withholding the half of the story, offering me only a censored version.
She spoke in a calm, almost unaccented voice, that made no differentiation between the opening of a tomb and of a can of beans.
While listening, two things became apparent to me: First, she had for sure the most profound knowledge about archaeology you could imagine, and second, she didn't have any real interest in archaeology. But what then were her motives? I asked if I could see some photos.
She shook her head. "I am very sorry, but there are only very few pics, and they'll be available for public as soon as I have finished evaluating them."
Was it only a mistake, or did her eyes glance for a tenth of a second towards the shelf? Between the books I noticed a worn out, green day planner.
"Did you ever feel lonely?", I asked.
She looked at me ungracefully. "May I remind you of our agreement, Mr. Bolschov? No personal questions!"
Boy, she called me 'Mr. Borschov'! But I was not willing to give in. "Take it as a philosophical question then."
Now she looked at me with a touch of irony. "Nice try, but I've never been good in philosophy!"
Can you remember the good old Philips cassette recorders? They were mono, frequently caused tape-salad, and instead of electronic modules they had mechanical drives. When a tape was over, the start-button flipped up, producing a "snap" sound. I was so concentrated on our conversation, that, when such a snap reached my ears, it took my some time to to realise it came out of the bag that I had left on the desk. Lara reacted much faster. She jumped off of her chair, and before I had even moved a finger she had drawn one of her pistols. Two bullets hit the bag. Somehow I expected the next bullet to hit me, but there wasn't a third, and then it was my turn to show some quick reactions. I jumped up, stumbled about the waste-paper basket and, while desperately searching for a hold, knocked the lamp from the desk. There was a clatter, then it was dark as pitch in the room.
After ten seconds I heard a switch being flipped, and the lights went on.
She looked at me with rage and scorn.
"Yes, yes", I stuttered. "If I could just call ..."
Her eyes became slits. "No one would question me shooting a burglar!"
There was no doubt she meant what she said. It was then that I realised that this woman, who had found the tomb of Qualopec all on her own, was paranoid. I decided to do without a cab. A few moments later I found myself on the road again. Ahead of me a walk of ten miles through the dark. But I didn't feel bad - under my jacket I had the green day planner. As it later turned out I had now in my possesion the diary of Lara Croft.
Three days later the phone rang, while I was working on my article. I sent our volunteer, who was helping me with the layout, out of the room on a plea, then I took off the receiver.
"Am I right you are not going to publish the documents you robbed?", a well known female voice said.
"No", I replied, trying to make my voice sound as cool and firm as hers. "I have no such plans for the moment."
"Of course not, Mr Borchov. And I know the reason - you consider yourself being very smart and clever. But you don't expect to get away with this, do you?"
Her voice suddenly switched from cold and arrogant to warm and very friendly. "But I think we could find a way to help you out. Still nothing has happened that couldn't be undone. You just give me back what's mine, and we forget about the whole affair. I am even willing to compensate for your, eh, accounts."
"No chance, Ms. Croft", I answered with a somehow husky voice. "I really can't think of anything that would change my mind."
She made a little pause before she continued. I was very aware this was only a trick, but I had not known how effective this trick can be.
"What about your life, Mr. Borchov?" she finally said in a very calm voice.
It suddenly was very quiet in the room. From a distance I could hear some kind of thunder, and it took me a while to realise it was my own heartbeat. I just couldn't think of a reply that would make any sense.
But it didn't matter. She had hung up anyway.