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Authors: Jackie Ivie

As Long As

BOOK: As Long As
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As Long As

by Jackie Ivie

A Vampire Assassin League Novella

“We Kill for Profit”

28th in series

Copyright 2015, Jackie Ivie

This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portion thereof, in any form. This book may not be resold or uploaded for distribution to others.

This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

CHAPTER ONE

He was named for a god of the dead.

It fit.

The moment he opened his eyes, Sokar knew.

The tomb had been violated.

Something taken.

Thieves had breached this sacred place. That hadn’t happened in centuries. They mustn’t have paid attention to the inscriptions, if they could even read them. This tomb was special. It carried a curse – a real one. Every person coming into contact with any artifact was going to die. It would be a gruesome death, too. Nothing that would be attributed to natural causes. The deaths would be punishment. Painful. Torturous. Brutal.

The thought gave him great pleasure.

Sokar pushed the stone lid to one side, listening as stone grated against stone. And then he sat. Pitch black greeted him. Air, weighted with the scent of ancient wood, statuary, jewels, and precious metal surrounded him. Cloying. Suffocating. Nothing seemed out of place. Sokar cocked his head to one side and listened. Silence greeted him. It was an intense quiet. Vast. The kind that made a human’s ears ring. Sokar blinked and waited. Blinked again. Sight gradually returned. Despite the darkness, he could delineate the interior of a gilded shrine. And then his vision sharpened to include the inscriptions. The structure enclosed him, protecting his sepulcher on all four sides with hieroglyphs. He had a book of the dead beside him. It contained magical spells for the journey to the afterlife. He rested in a solid gold sarcophagus. It nestled inside a much larger, stone one. Made from Aswan granite. The golden one was inscribed with coffin texts. It was anthropomorphic. Hewn for an immense man.

His great grandfather.

Pharaoh Senusret III had stood four cubits, three palms, and two finger lengths in height; a modern equivalent of six foot six. His heir and son, Amenemhet III had been shorter, but two of Pharaoh Senusret’s great-grandsons inherited his height. Sokar was the largest. He was six foot five. Anyone seeing him immediately recognized him. He’d cleared streets with his passage. Gained shocked respect. Earned many victories that added breadth to his presence. He’d been in the full bloom of manhood. Lean. Muscled. Twenty-five. Commander-in-chief of the army for almost seven years. His father’s pride.

He was afraid of nothing. Little could harm him.

...except a knife blade slipped between his ribs one evening.

The inner coffin in his tomb was beautifully made...yet overly large. Perhaps it was because they’d used the one prepared for his father. It might also be that the embalmer counted on the linen. Yards of linen strips were supposed to be swathing his body, torn from special-woven material. Tacked into place with resin. That would have made the fit almost perfect. Then again...the sarcophagus could be too large because they’d been mummifying his newly-deceased half-brother’s body and placing it within these sarcophagi.

Not his.

A pebble chased another one somewhere in the pitch-black tomb. The sound echoed and re-echoed through the passages. Was it possible the robbers were still here? Still gathering grave objects? Completely unaware of the threat?

Could he really be that lucky?

Sokar eased from the nest of coffins. Bent his neck to keep from grazing the roof of the shrine. The enclosure was made of gilded wood. It had been sealed by a priest of Anubis in 1805 BC. That clay seal was still in place. Intact. Sokar approached the back wall. One side was off its pegs, making it easy to swing it open. That’s how he’d accessed it the first time. He’d removed his half-brother’s mummy, emptied the canopic jars. Took them into the desert and let time do its work. Sokar wasn’t allowing any part of his murderous brother to survive and reach the afterlife.

The panel was well-used, and quiet. The wood barely whispered as he moved it. And then he heard someone speak.

~ ~ ~

“I don’t like this.”

“Why not? It’s an
ushabti
. A servant statue. King Tut had over 400 of them.”

“Did you look that up on the internet?”

“It is authentic. In perfect condition and available for purchase.”

“Well...I don’t traffic in stolen grave goods, and you know it.” Geena looked over the top of her magnifying glasses. The look was meant to convey disgust and distrust. It didn’t seem to work.

“Stolen? Oh no. Never. I am working for a Scandinavian family, one who wishes to remain anonymous. This was in their family collection. It is worth top dollar. It’s Middle Kingdom. Dynasty thirteen. Maybe fourteen.”

“Twelfth dynasty. If it’s real.”

Geena’s tone belied her real emotions. She sounded bored. Disinterested. Disdainful. She managed to control any tremor as she cradled the forearm-sized statue with both hands. It wasn’t possible. This piece was too good. In perfect condition. The statue was a single piece of alabaster, carved to represent a mummy, hands across the chest, each holding implements. From the waist down, it was covered with inscriptions. She tipped it slightly to look at the shoulder.
Wow
. It even had the impression of a seed pack carved across a back shoulder. This was incredibly rare. Unbelievably priceless. And Armand had ten of them?

“I have the entire set of ten,” he spoke as if she’d asked it aloud. “They are in a large chest from the same period. I also have the overseer.”

“Really?”
Good
. Her voice held just a hint of interest.

“Every ten
ushabtis
had an overseer. You can tell because it is wearing a starched kilt.”

Armand sent a swift glance to the only door before returning his attention to her. He colored slightly at her scrutiny. That was interesting. And something more. She could swear he was on edge. Wary. She waited a few seconds more before replying.

“More internet searching?” she asked.

“Does it matter where I get my information?”

“Not really.”

Geena set the statue carefully back into the mass of burlap that had enwrapped it. Then she stood to place it onto the boardroom table, right beside the large leather satchel they’d used to transport it. She took her glasses off next, folded them, and replaced them in the case before putting it in her shirt pocket. Refastened the button. She backed a step, pushing her chair out of the way, the move gaining space. Maneuvering room. The room didn’t have much in the way of furnishings. This table ran down the center. Twelve executive-style chairs framed the table. A sink and countertop delineated one wall. A display stand holding a large pad of paper occupied one corner. It was a small conference room. Private. Secure. Easy to defend. She’d booked it for that very reason.

And the fact it was soundproofed.

“I still don’t like it.”

“Are you insane? I could get thousands for this at auction. Hundreds of thousands. Maybe more.”

“Then why don’t you?”

“Because it belongs with you. In a museum. Not some rich man’s collection.”

“Come on, Armand. We’ve known each other a little too long. You’re offering it to me because if you tried to sell it at auction, it would have to be authenticated. Your source verified. You can’t take that kind of risk. You’d get caught.”

“Now...why would you say that?”

Armand stood as well. He was of Middle Eastern descent. Dark-haired. He wore a linen tunic shirt and dark slacks. He was a little over average height. Geena was an inch shorter. He would be easy. Not his bodyguards. The three men he’d brought with him each took a step away from the walls. They were large, imposing individuals. They might even have weapons. Geena looked at each one before turning her attention back to Armand.

“How did you get this out of Egypt?” she asked.

“What makes you say I got it there?”

He sent another glance to the door to her right. Geena forced back an impulse to do the same.

“Because an artifact of this size, condition, and antiquity doesn’t just appear. And you say you have an entire set? If this was in a collection you’d recently acquired, it would have created all kinds of attention. Everywhere. You’d be besieged with offers. And you’d have more than three, iffy-looking security personnel with you.”

The bodyguards each stood straighter at her remark. Geena’s lips twitched. She caught the smile.

“Are you interested in purchasing or not?”

Geena watched him scoop the
ushabti
up and repack it into the satchel. He didn’t use the care she would have. He also appeared to be shaking.

“You never gave me a price.”

“I was waiting for your reaction. I believe I will need to recalculate. You are not the lone buyer I can approach.”

Damn
. Armand was smart. She’d given it away with her last remarks. He checked the door again. Geena’s glance went there, too. Weird. She experienced the slightest shiver along her arms and then down her spine. But there was nothing to see except a large wooden door. She returned her attention to Armand and spoke.

“Two-hundred and fifty thousand.”

“Per statue?”

Geena huffed the amusement. She couldn’t help it. “Not hardly. The entire set. Including the trunk.”

“Five hundred thousand.”

Ah
. He’d given her a ceiling. And the upper hand. That meant he was desperate. And she liked doing business with desperate men.

“Three hundred thousand,” she counter-offered.

“In Euros?”

She tipped her head slightly. Calculated. It was well worth the funds. He shifted from one foot to the other. Stuck a hand in his pocket. Jangled coins. She’d never seen Armand this nervous. Then again, she hadn’t been around him for over a year, and he wasn’t a man she cared enough to observe for any amount of time. For all she knew, his anxiety might be normal.

“Agreed. And...why don’t you leave the statue? As a gesture of goodwill.”

“Gladly.”

His answer gave her pause. She studied him again. He flushed a darker tone and wouldn’t meet her gaze. “You aren’t going to wait for the wire transfer?” she finally asked.

“No. We have a deal. I do not believe you will cheat me.”

“That’s...generous of you,” Geena replied.

“Not exactly. I must warn you, Miss. There is a curse on this
ushabti.
I am doing you no favors by selling it to you.”

“There’s a curse on every Egyptian artifact, Armand.”

“This one is real. So real...I—never mind. I see you do not believe me. This curse is different. I am being followed.”

“In your profession, I’m not surprised,” Geena offered.

“No! It is not like that. I’m being followed by something...different. I see you do not believe me. And I cannot describe it.”

“You can’t scare me, Armand. I’ve seen too much. I’m not exactly wet-behind-the-ears. You ever hear of
Krav Maga
?”

His bodyguards exchanged glances. Armand shook his head.

“Looks like your friends have. It’s an Israeli form of self-defense. Brutal. Efficient. Permanently disabling. Often fatal.”

“You know this
Krav Maga?

“I’m a G-4 Brown Belt.”

She watched his men step back. That was pleasurable. But Armand didn’t look impressed.

“It will not matter. Your skills will not help you. Guns will not work. I’m telling you this thing is evil. Pure evil.”

“I’m not afraid of the occult.”

“I wasn’t either. Look. I will prove it to you. I will deliver the other
ushabtis
to you now. Right now. Simon. Fetch the chest.”

One of his men left the room. The door shut with soft click. Geena didn’t turn her attention away from Armand. If she wasn’t mistaken, he was beginning to perspire, too. The collar of his high buttoned shirt also appeared to be too tight. She watched him stick his forefinger beneath it and pull at it.

“You can quit trying to scare me, Armand. It’s not going to work.”

“I’m not trying to scare anyone. I’m warning you—”

A scream interrupted him. The door burst open with such violent force it sent the door handle into the wall, sticking the door open. Half of the bodyguard’s body flew through the space and bounced off the table, spewing a shower of pinkish mist. A thunderous boom accompanied it. A whirlwind of
something
spun into the space. Light in the ceiling burst next, showering sparks onto everything. Geena grabbed the satchel, dove beneath the table, scrambling to the far end to lunge toward the wall. There she crouched. Squinted. The only lights came from out in the hall somewhere, and an intermittent spark of life from a lamp along the counter as it struggled to stay lit. It delineated the immensity of something impenetrable. Black. Another lifeless torso smacked into the wall beside her. It wasn’t Armand. She could hear him screaming.

But she couldn’t see a thing.

BOOK: As Long As
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