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 (9 page)

BOOK: The Atlantis Stone
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CHAPTER 21

 

 

Elizabeth's phone signaled. She looked at the caller ID. It was Clarence Hood.

Clarence. I hope this isn't some new emergency.

The Director of the CIA and Elizabeth had become friends. They didn't always agree, but they worked well together. Both were realists about the threats facing the country. Both were dedicated to neutralizing those threats before they became reality.

"Hello, Clarence."

"Elizabeth. Have I caught you at a bad time?"

"Not at all. I was about to leave early for a change. For once, it's a slow day."

"Slow days worry me."

"I know what you mean. When it's slow, it means the bad guys are planning something."

"I was wondering if you'd like to have dinner with me this evening?"

"I'd love to."

"How about Japanese food? There's an excellent restaurant over on MacArthur Boulevard."

"The one with the fixed menu?"

"That's the one."

"I know it. They have wonderful sushi."

"Seven o'clock?" Hood said. "I'll make reservations and meet you there. There's a back room where we can have privacy, away from the public."

Both had security issues to consider. A private room was always preferable for outings in public.

"It's a date."

"Good. I'll see you then."

Hood hung up.

A date,
she thought
. Is that what it is? Come on, it's only a figure of speech.

Her mood lifted. Before the call, the only thing she'd had to look forward to was an empty brownstone and another evening of reading reports. Dinner out was a welcome change.

A little before seven she parked and went inside the restaurant. The main room was laid out as a long, narrow rectangle. Low tables lined one wall, with square cushions on the floor for seating. A sushi bar with a dozen stools took up the other side of the room. A hanging red curtain led to the back. The decor was simple, accented with polished cherry wood and discrete lighting. Everything was obsessively clean.

A polite Japanese man escorted her back to the private room. Hood was already seated. He rose when she came in. He wore a lightweight tailored gray suit and a blue and white tie.

"You're looking nice this evening, Elizabeth."

She was wearing her usual black and white outfit, nothing Hood hadn't seen before. She took the complement for what it was.

"Thanks. This is a wonderful idea. I'm glad you called."

They sat across from each other.

A waiter appeared and Hood ordered sake for both of them. There was no need to order food. The menu was Omakase. Everything would be brought one course at a time, without any say in what would be served. 

When the waiter had gone, Hood took a small electronic device from his pocket, set it on the table and turned it on. It made it impossible for anyone to listen in on their conversation.

"Just a precaution," he said.

"It's a habit," Elizabeth said. "I do the same thing in public."

Hood filled her cup and then his own. "We have a lot in common, don't we?"

Elizabeth sipped. It was good sake, cloudy, unfiltered.

"Our jobs overlap quite a bit."

Hood toyed with his cup. "I was thinking of more than our work. We enjoy similar things. Take Japanese food, for example. Not everyone appreciates sushi."

Elizabeth raised her cup, enjoying herself. 

"Or sake."

"Or sake," Hood said. He lifted his cup and emptied it.

When they came out of the restaurant two hours later they were both high on the rice wine.

Hood's driver held the door open for him.

"That was fun," she said. "I really enjoyed myself."

"So did I." Hood stood next to her. "Elizabeth..."

"Yes?"

Hood reached down and touched her face. Then he leaned close and kissed her.

Elizabeth was shocked. She hadn't expected him to do that. It put her at a loss for words. Instead of speaking, she kissed him back.

Hood stepped away. "Sorry, I shouldn't have done that."

"Oh, Clarence, don't be so old-fashioned. You don't have to apologize."

"I could blame it on the sake, but that's got nothing to do with it. I find you very attractive. I thought that kind of thing was over for me. I guess I was wrong."

"That kind of thing?"

"Being attracted to someone. As I am to you."

Standing in the warm Washington evening and listening to Hood's soft, Southern accent, Elizabeth felt something shift inside. It had been a long time since someone wanted to get close. The kiss had cracked open a door she'd closed long ago.

She looked at him with a new eye. Hood wasn't a bad looking man. He was in his 60s but he'd held up pretty well. He was taller than she was, but then almost everyone was. His hair had turned full gray and was perfectly cut. He wasn't wearing any jewelry except a gold watch, not even a class ring. She liked that in a man.

"I like you too, Clarence."

"I can settle for that." He smiled at her. "Let's do this again."

"Call me."

She touched him on the arm and got into her car. Hood watched her drive away.

Down the street a man with a camera got into his car.

CHAPTER 22

 

 

Valentina called General Vysotsky from Marsá Matruh. The connection over the satellite link was faint but clear.

"Two FSB agents?" Alexei said.

"I recognized one of them. She's a real bitch. Her name is Katerina Rostov."

"I know who she is. She's one of Volkov's favorites. What's Harker's team up to?"

"I don't know. They left their hotel and Rostov followed them. They headed out on the coast highway toward Libya. It's wide open along there and there's no traffic because of the threat from ISIS. There was too much chance of being spotted if I followed, so I waited near their hotel for them. It was hours before the Americans came back. Their car looked like somebody attacked it with sandpaper. Rostov and her partner were nowhere in sight. I don't know what happened to them."

"Where did they go?"

"The only thing between here and Libya is some old ruins on the coast highway. Maybe they were going sightseeing. It's a tourist attraction, there can't be anything important about it."

"I'll be the judge of that."

Valentina wanted to tell him to go to hell. Instead she said, "What do you want me to do?"

"What you have been doing. Observe. Watch Harker's team and watch Rostov."

"I can't watch them both all the time."

"You don't have to. Rostov will be watching to see what the Americans are doing, like you. You just have to be in the right place to see them both."

Easy for you to say,
Valentina thought.

"Your sister and her comrades are looking for something. Volkov wants it, whatever it is. He will have instructed Rostov to get it anyway she can. Under no circumstances must she succeed."

"Do you want me to take her out?"

"Not unless it becomes necessary."

"It would simplify things."

"No, Valentina. You heard what I said. Only if necessary. Keep me informed."

Vysotsky ended the call.

Only if necessary.

Valentina was pretty sure it would become necessary. She knew Rostov by reputation. Sooner or later the woman would make a mistake that required stepping in.

Like threatening her sister.

Thinking of Selena was complicated. Where did her loyalties lie? On the face of it, it was simple enough. Selena was a spy for the main enemy. But she was also the only family Valentina had in the world.

Valentina remembered countless lonely nights when she'd wished for a family, for someone to hold her and care for her. Her mother had been an active KGB agent and was almost never home. Valentina had been brought up by KGB and SVR instructors. The curriculum didn't include family dynamics. The ideal operative had no family except the state. Until recently, that had been Valentina's norm.

Valentina was proud of her role, her uniform. She had respect. She knew people thought her cold but she didn't care what they thought. She'd found her place in the world as an instrument of Russian state policy.

Then her world had turned upside down. She'd learned she had a sister and that her father had been an American spy.

Valentina hadn't been prepared for the emotional shock that followed from the discovery. Emotions made her uncomfortable. She'd succeeded in suppressing almost everything that felt upsetting but when she discovered Selena, the brittle walls she'd built up to contain her feelings began to crumble. She'd been shocked by the sensations that surged through her when she first saw her sister in person.

Not long after that she'd kept Selena from being horribly murdered. She hadn't been prepared for how protective she'd felt, or how angry she'd been at the same time.

It was all very confusing.

Now here she was again, keeping an eye on her sister from a distance. Like before, there was a threat to the only family she had. Rostov and her companion meant no good. If the FSB wanted something, they were skilled at getting it. Valentina was under no illusions about what would happen if Rostov managed to isolate Selena and question her. Katerina Rostov was a sadist. The interrogation would be brutal. It would be easy to make the body disappear afterward.

It wasn't going to happen, not if Valentina had anything to say about it.

 

 

CHAPTER 23

 

 

"I need a shower," Selena said.

"You and me both. You go first," Nick said.

Selena didn't argue. After she finished she dried off and put on a robe provided by the hotel. Still drying her hair, she went to her laptop and turned it on. She loaded the pictures she'd taken on her phone and chose a close-up shot of the fallen slab inscribed with Linear D. She'd begun thinking of it as the language of Atlantis.

Someone had carved the inscription more than five thousand years ago. In her imagination she pictured a man in sandals and a short, white tunic, holding a hammer and chisel as he chipped away.

Who was he, the man who put these characters here? What did he look like? Was he Egyptian? Someone from a land that's supposed to be a myth?

She brought up the notes she'd made on the tablet in the French museum. The writing in the photograph was similar, but there were characters she hadn't seen before. She copied down the new symbols, adding them to the list she'd created before. When she was sure she'd noted everything new, she looked at the  result.

She now had a list of thirty-six symbols and characters, each representing a concept or thought. She'd succeeded in assigning an initial meaning to most of the characters. The problem was that a symbol that meant "water" had multiple interpretations, depending on the context.

Slowly she began to piece together a sense of what was written. She lost track of time. She started when Nick came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders. It jolted her back to the present.

"How's it going?"

"Look at this." Selena pointed at the picture on the monitor. "What does that look like to you?"

"Like an arrow pointing away from a squiggly line, with a hat under it. And three concentric circles."

"What about that round circle with the lines coming off it?"

"I suppose it could be the sun. I've seen pictures of primitive carvings that look like that."

"That's what I think. I think this is a map."

"A map of what?"

"A map that shows where Atlantis was." She traced her finger across the screen. "The squiggly line could represent a coastline. It looks a little like the coast of North Africa."

She pointed at the concentric circles.

"That character under the circles means home. The one next to it means water, like ocean. You see how the symbol for the sun is off to the side of the symbol for home?"

"Yes," Nick said, "but I don't see what it means."

"By checking your position against the sun and this map, you'd know where you were."

Nick thought about it. "If that's the case, the sun always has to be in the same position for the map to mean anything."

"Yes. It must represent a time of day. The most logical time would be noon."

"You think these people navigated using the sun?"

"Why not? Lots of ancient cultures figured out how to sail over the ocean without getting lost."

"Where's the starting point? You need someplace to start from or the map doesn't make any sense."

"I think this symbol that looks like a hat is the temple where we found the inscription. See the arrow pointing toward the circles? If the hat represents the temple, you would follow the line of the arrow toward the circles, using the sun as your reference point. That would put you way out in the Atlantic, if I'm reading this correctly."

"You know how crazy this sounds?" Nick asked. "You're telling me you just found a map pointing to Atlantis."

"It's no more crazy than us being here in the first place," she said. "If the Russians weren't taking it seriously, we wouldn't be here."

"Was there anything on that piece of rock to tell us where the archive is?"

"No."

"Then we're back to square one."

"Not exactly. If this is a map showing where Atlantis was, we might be able to find it. The archive could be there."

"If it is, it's under a hell of a lot of water. You want to go looking for underwater ruins?"

"Those three circles could be the symbol of the capital city. It's logical that the archive would be there." Her face glowed with excitement. "Think about it, Nick. We're talking about Atlantis. We'd be the first people to see it in thousands of years. This map is the key to finding it. We have to try."

"How do you intend to get down there? I can't see Harker going to the Pentagon and asking them if she could please borrow a ship to go look for Atlantis."

"We don't need the Navy," Selena said. "I know someone who has everything we need for deep-sea exploration. I can hire him. The Pentagon doesn't need to get involved."

Every time Nick managed to forget how wealthy Selena was, something happened to remind him. The kind of expedition she was talking about would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe more. Selena's uncle had been a billionaire. His murder had brought her to the Project and left her with a fortune. She'd given a lot of it away to charity but there was still plenty left over.

All that money hadn't turned her into someone who thought she was better than everyone else. It was one of the reasons Nick loved her.

"We'd have to clear that with Harker."

"We should go home. We're at a dead end unless there's something out there in the ocean. If the Russians come here they aren't going to find out any more than we have."

"The Russians will find that temple, like we did," Nick said. "They'll come to the same conclusion. They'll go look for Atlantis."

"Then we'd better get there before they do," Selena said.

BOOK: The Atlantis Stone
12.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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