Read The Atlantis Stone Online

Authors: Alex Lukeman

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Spies & Politics, #Espionage, #Thriller, #Thrillers

The Atlantis Stone (2 page)

BOOK: The Atlantis Stone
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CHAPTER 2

 

 

"Ouch."

Nick Carter set his razor down on the edge of the sink and dabbed at the cut with a shred of toilet paper. He gave himself a once over in the mirror. The nightmares had started again. He wasn't sleeping well. Dark shadows under his eyes brought out their gray color and the flecks of gold hidden in them.

A fresh shave, and he could already see the next beard ready to spring out. Sometimes he wondered why he bothered. His face was still pretty much the way it had been yesterday, barring the cut making a red spot in the bit of white paper he'd laid on it. It was a strong face, not particularly handsome, but not ugly either. He thought he could see some new signs of aging. Or was he imagining it?

He needed a good workout in the Project gym, something to relieve the tension he'd been feeling for the last few weeks. He wasn't sure where it was coming from.

It was early morning on what promised to be a beautiful spring day in Washington. Nick dressed in comfortable slacks and a light gray cotton shirt. He walked into the kitchen, took a cup from the cabinet and filled it with black coffee from a pot brewing on the counter. He took the cup over to a table littered with mail delivered the day before, sat down and started sorting through it.

Selena came into the kitchen. She poured a cup and joined him.

Selena was a woman people noticed. She had intense eyes that changed color from violet to deep blue and back again, depending on the light. Either way, they were a perfect match for her red-blond hair. Two inches shorter than Nick's six feet, she was sixty pounds light of his two hundred. The amount of body fat on her didn't amount to much but it was there in the places where it mattered.

"You have a letter from Amsterdam." Nick passed it over. "Your agent sent it over. It's addressed to Selena Connor."

There was nothing unusual about getting letters using her maiden name. Selena still corresponded with some of her former academic acquaintances. Sometimes she got invitations for appearances and guest lectures, though there were fewer of those these days. She usually had to turn them down. It had been some time since she'd last given a formal lecture, but her international reputation as an expert in ancient languages still brought requests. They came by way of an agent who handled professional correspondence for her.

"Amsterdam? I don't think I know anyone there. It's probably someone who wants me to give a talk."

"There's no return address."

"That's unusual. Let me see it."

The only writing on the envelope was a spidery scrawl with her name and the address of her agent. She used a table knife to slit open the envelope.

"It's an old photograph and a map. And a letter."

"A map of where?"

She unfolded the map. It was creased and worn, as if it had been carried in someone's pocket for many years.

"Egypt, when it was still a British protectorate. That would be the first part of the last century."

She set the map aside and picked up the photograph. It was yellowed and torn on one corner.

"What does the letter say?"

"I'll read it out loud."

 

Dear Dr. Connor,

 

My name is Yuri Sokolov. I am a senior researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. My field is Middle Eastern archaeology. I am writing to you because of your unique reputation as an expert in Linear A.

 

"A Russian?" Nick said.

"You're interrupting."

"Sorry."

Selena continued reading.

 

The photograph was taken sometime in 1912 by Mikhail Popov, an archaeologist friend of Czar Nicholas III. I found it in a file of Popov's correspondence, along with the map of Egypt. There's a mark on the map near the coastal city of Marsá Matruh. I suspect that is where the picture was taken.

 

Selena picked up a magnifying glass and studied the picture.

"Interesting," she said.

"What's interesting?"

"It's a picture of a stone pillar, lying in sand, inscribed with hieroglyphics and what looks like Linear A. I've never seen those two languages combined before. It has to be very old."

She turned back to the letter.

 

You can see two kinds of writing on the pillar in the photograph. The hieroglyphics are a very early style. The other is a variant of Linear A.

I was able to translate only part of the inscription but was greatly surprised by what I discovered. I gave a copy of the picture to a colleague, seeking a second opinion. That was a mistake. There have been rumors my colleague is an informant for the security services. The same evening a friend called to tell me the FSB were on their way to my apartment.

What is inscribed on the pillar has possible military implications, enough to explain FSB interest. My government cannot be trusted to make this information public. When you translate it you will understand my concerns.

I am going on to Paris tomorrow and from there to America. I would like to meet with you and discuss this with you in person.

 

Cordially, Yuri Sokolov

 

 

"He sounds like an idealist," Selena said.

"That's it?" Nick asked.

"That's all there is."

"What kind of military implications?"

"He doesn't say."

"Can you read the script in the photograph?"

"Let me take a look."

Selena got a pen and paper and began studying the picture through her magnifying glass. Nick watched her making notes. Her expression was intense, focused.

She said, "If this says what I think it does, you're not going to believe me"

"Try me."

"I think the inscription is about Atlantis."

"You have got to be kidding."

"See? I told you that you wouldn't believe me."

"Atlantis is a legend."

"If it turns out that it isn't, a lot of people are going to get upset. Egyptologists, for example."

"Are you sure it's about Atlantis?"

"I'm not certain, but it's a good bet." She pointed at the photograph with her pencil. "These characters form a phrase that means homeland. It's described as a plain and mountain surrounded by water."

"That could be about Crete. The Minoans used Linear A and Crete isn't that far from Egypt. What else does it say?"

"It's an account boasting about the power of the homeland. It says the priests lifted heavy blocks of stone into the air using an object given to them by the gods, an artifact of some kind. "

"A force that could lift heavy stones? Thousands of years ago?"

"That's what it says."

"That must be what Sokolov meant about military implications. If the Russians think there's anything to this, they wouldn't want him telling anyone about it."

"I wonder if he's in Paris?"

"I doubt it. It must've taken days for that letter to get here. Then it had to go through your agent to you. If he'd followed through on his plan he'd be here by now. He would have contacted you."

"You think they caught up with him?" Selena asked.

"If they did, it wouldn't be good news for him."

"If he's a senior researcher with a prestigious Russian Institute, he'll be in the database. Steph can look him up."

Stephanie Willits was Director Elizabeth Harker's deputy, in charge of the Project computers. If what you wanted was in a database somewhere, Stephanie could find it.

"We'll ask her when we go in."

Selena's voice was enthusiastic. "We should look for that pillar. There's more written on the back where I can't see it. It might tell us more."

"Does the map show where it was photographed?"

"Not exactly. Marsá Matruh is on the Mediterranean coast west of Cairo. The spot on the map is farther on, toward Libya. "

"I don't think foreigners are popular in that part of the world right now. It won't be easy to get to it."

"If it led to discovering the force mentioned in that inscription, any effort would be worth it."

Nick reached up to scratch his ear but thought better of it.

"I suppose so," he said.

CHAPTER 3

 

 

Elizabeth Harker opened the French doors onto the patio outside her office and contemplated the day ahead. Security be damned, it was too nice a day to leave the doors closed against the spring air. Later it would be humid and hot. This early in the morning, the breeze was cool and fresh. The scent of flowers and new grass drifted into the room.

Birds sang and chirped outside. She hoped the cat didn't catch one and bring it to her as a gift.

Usually she dressed in a black pantsuit and white blouse. Today she'd reversed the pattern. The suit was white, the blouse black. A gold and emerald pin in the shape of a Celtic knot graced her left breast. The emeralds picked up the vibrant green of her eyes.

Elizabeth liked to dress in black and white. It kept things simple. Her life was complicated enough without worrying about what she was going to wear. The habit had started when she was in law school and carried over when she went to work for the Justice Department.

She'd been part of the 9/11 task force but as the investigation progressed, she'd become uneasy and then concerned. She'd argued with the conclusions being fed to the media and the public about what had happened. Elizabeth was branded as someone who wasn't a team player and transferred to a dead-end job on an endless RICO investigation. She'd been about to resign when President Rice tapped her to head up the Project.

Rice had a problem with the intelligence agencies. Sometimes they thought they knew better than the White House what needed to be done. Critical information was withheld because someone decided Rice had no need to know. How the hell was he supposed to make good decisions when he didn't have all the facts he needed? He'd wanted a new agency that answered only to him. He'd wanted it small and out of the public eye, with someone to run it who would tell him the truth. It was Harker's maverick refusal to go along with the official story about 9/11 that had caught his eye

Elizabeth had built a team she was proud of, led by Nick. He was the first person she'd recruited, right out of a hospital bed in Bethesda. Sometimes he'd been difficult to handle but she'd never regretted the decision.

Selena entered the picture when her wealthy uncle was found tortured and murdered. A personal friend of the president, Rice asked Elizabeth to look into it as a favor. Events piled on one another and now Selena was part of the team. She'd earned it, the hard way. She had the bullet wounds and scars to prove it.

The other two members of the field team were Ronnie Peete and Lamont Cameron. Both had been badly wounded in Germany during the last mission. Ronnie had been a Gunnery Sergeant in the Marines. Lamont had been a Navy SEAL before coming to the Project.

Elizabeth worried about them. Years of wounds and surgeries were beginning to take a toll on their bodies. It was true for Nick as well. Selena had never been in the military but after few years in the Project she was catching up to the others.

The team always seemed to find the sharp end of the sword. Elizabeth prayed they would all continue for a while longer. She couldn't imagine replacing any of them.

The last piece of her team was Stephanie Willits. Steph was as good with the computer as the others were with their weapons. With Steph at the keyboard, the Crays downstairs were a powerful resource at Elizabeth's command. If there was anything Stephanie couldn't do with a computer, Elizabeth didn't know what it was. She was essential to the success of the Project.

Stephanie walked into the room.

Elizabeth said, "I was just thinking about you."

"Nothing bad, I hope."

"Not at all. I was thinking how grateful I am that we work together."

Steph smiled at her. "It's mutual."

"You look chipper today," Elizabeth said.

"I think Lucas and I have finally gotten past what happened."

What had happened was a highway ambush by assassins trying to take out the team. Three months pregnant, Stephanie had lost the baby. Lucas Monroe was the Director of Clandestine Services at Langley and her lover. He'd been driving the car and seriously wounded at the same time. The aftermath had been days of dark depression and grief.

"We're going to try again," Stephanie said. "The doctor said there's no reason we couldn't have another child. We weren't ready before now." She paused. "I wasn't ready."

"Steph, that's wonderful. I'm so happy for you. I think it's the right thing for both of you."

"What's on the agenda this morning?"

"Nick and Selena will be here any moment. Ronnie and Lamont are over at Walter Reed for checkups. For once there doesn't seem to be a fire we have to put out."

"That won't last long," Stephanie said. "We'd better enjoy it while we can."

"We haven't done anything together for fun in quite a while. I thought we could all have lunch at that new restaurant in Georgetown. If we go early enough, we'll get a good table."

"That's a great idea," Nick said through the open door.

He came into the room with Selena. They took seats on a long leather couch facing Elizabeth's desk.

"Where are Ronnie and Lamont?" Selena asked.

"Getting checked out at Walter Reed."

"What are we looking at this morning?" Nick asked.

"I was just telling Steph things are quiet."

Selena said, "This may change that."

She handed Sokolov's letter with the map and photograph to Elizabeth.

Stephanie said, "I told you it wouldn't last long."

Elizabeth examined the photograph.

"A stone pillar? What's that on it?"

"Two kinds of writing. An early version of hieroglyphics and a variation of Linear A. That picture was taken in Egypt. I've only made a partial translation but I think we have to follow up on it."

"What does it say?" Steph asked.

Selena told them what she had gotten so far.

Elizabeth looked at her as if she'd been smoking something.

"That is the most bizarre thing I have ever heard you say. This inscription is about Atlantis?"

"It's possible."

"Why do you think that? It could be about the Minoans. They were surrounded by water."

"That's what Nick said. That would make sense except for the part about moving heavy stones using an unknown force. Judging from the letter, the Russians are taking it seriously. That's why we have to pay attention. We need to look for that pillar."

Stephanie said, "What if this Yuri Sokolov isn't who he claims to be? The letter could be misdirection on the part of the Russians."

"Why send it to Selena?" Nick asked.

"It could be a trick to draw the team out."

"And I thought I was paranoid."

Steph played with gold bracelets on her left wrist. "You know they'd love to create trouble for us."

"Sure, but there are easier ways to do it."

Elizabeth said, "Steph, see what you can find out about Sokolov. Also the friend of the Czar mentioned in the letter. There might be a record of him."

"I'll get right on it."

"Selena, how long will it take you to translate the rest of that inscription in the photograph?"

"I don't know. I'll start working on it right away."

There goes lunch,
Elizabeth thought.

"I guess I'll have to settle for that."

BOOK: The Atlantis Stone
3.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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