Authors: James Douglas
Tags: #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Suspense, #Thrillers
About the Book
The Crown of Isis, once part of the treasure of Queen Dido of Carthage, was reputed to grant its wearer immortality. In
64 it was stolen from the Temple of Isis. It was believed lost forever. Until now.
Art recovery expert Jamie Saintclair receives an unexpected phone call from Brooklyn detective Danny Fisher. Two families have been brutally murdered, one in New York, the other in London. The only link is a shared name, that of a German art thief who disappeared at the end of the war.
Jamie’s investigation will take them into the dark past of Nazi Germany, to a hidden world of the occult – where a carefully guarded secret reveals a legacy of bloodshed. As Saintclair and Fisher will discover, for the promise of eternal life there are those who would kill, and kill again.
For Shona and Derek, the very best of friends
WE WALKED FOR
two days in the darkness of the Otherworld before we reached Queen Dido’s treasury. At times I feared we would be lost in the caves for ever
The words emerged babbled and almost formless, the voice barely a whisper clinging to the outer edge of existence, like its owner, the frail, silver-haired patient lying on the hospital bed. Seated beside the bed, the tall blond man hit the rewind button on a digital recorder and replayed the two sentences for the fourth time.
We walked for two days in the darkness of the Otherworld before we reached Queen Dido’s treasury
It had been like this from the start: tiny fragments of stories in half a dozen different languages, each providing a frustrating glimpse of a larger whole. Tantalizing, but ultimately infuriating. Names whose identity had only become clear from the history books. The doctors called it multiple personality disorder and said it wasn’t
for a sufferer to suddenly start talking in foreign languages, even those they could never have learned. They didn’t have an explanation for it, but it happened. Only the blond man knew that something set this case apart. That was why he’d begun recording the mad ramblings of a brain on the point of self-destruct.
The room in the private hospital was large and airy, but for a moment he found it difficult to breathe. He rose from the cushioned plastic seat and opened the window, allowing in a gust of petroleum-scented air from the constant traffic he could hear rushing along Euston Road a few hundred yards away. A combination of words in the excerpt stirred a memory and he searched the machine’s database for a previous recording, his subconscious automatically monitoring the shrill, annoying rush of digitized information for the section he was listening for. ‘…
the caves for ever
It was one of the longer passages and he frowned as he concentrated on the words.
I ordered my legionaries to wall up the cave mouth and, using the surviving priests and their scribes for labour, diverted a stream so that it formed a deep pool, which would conceal the entrance of the caves for ever. When the work was complete I had the workers put to the sword, their bodies burned and their bones crushed to dust so that no earthly trace remained of their existence
Paul Dornberger listened without emotion to the tale of massacre. More important than the content was the
that the words were spoken in an archaic, colloquial Latin his researches had confirmed was probably used in Rome around the time of Christ’s death. He could read Latin and Greek as well as he could read English, but it had taken several weeks to associate the recording with the language he had read and heard.
The thin figure on the bed groaned, as if he could sense the febrile electricity in the air. Dornberger studied him, aware that he felt none of the affection or sympathy that would be normal in a son.
Queen Dido’s treasury
The three words sent a thrill of almost childlike excitement through him. They conjured up a picture-book image of gold and jewels lying in great heaps; a literal king’s ransom. Yet, that was the least of it. What truly mattered was that the words appeared to confirm something beyond understanding and that should rightly have been beyond belief. Something that the old man had revealed during one of the more lucid periods of his relentless downward spiral. Dornberger took a deep breath and walked to the large safe bolted to the floor beside the bed. It was an expensive safe, the most secure his employer’s money would buy. He studied it for a moment. The combination of keys and punched numbers were etched on his brain, but he ran each stage through his mind before performing it, because he was a careful man and it was his habit. With a faint click, the heavy steel door opened to reveal a substantial,
velvet bag of a kind sometimes used to protect valuable musical instruments.
He hesitated before picking it up. If he was honest, what was inside made him nervous in a way very few things did. He placed the bag on to the bed and untied the silken strings that closed the neck. No need to rush. The door was locked and, in any case, no doctor or nurse would dare barge into the room without knocking. The material was soft between his fingers as he drew the neck apart, allowing him to see the buttery glint of yellow metal inside. His heart fluttered a little as he reached in to draw the contents clear of the velvet cloth.
This was the physical manifestation of the words on the recorder: what made the impossible possible. The object in his hands stood eighteen inches tall and consisted of a diadem of gold topped by twin horns of the same precious metal, which curved upwards and out, so that the tips ended nine inches apart. Between the horns, close to the base and at the narrowest point, were fixed four clasps in a configuration that would hold an object about the size of a goose’s egg. The band of the diadem had been worked with symbols that were recognizably Pharaonic, similar to those on artefacts he’d seen in the Egyptian section of the British Museum. In the centre, between the base of the horns, was carved a single staring eye. Some impulse made him raise the crown and place it on his head. At first the metal was cold against his forehead, but it quickly warmed to the
of his body. Blood thundered in his ears, his vision became blurred and for a fleeting moment he truly believed. But the sensation quickly passed and he saw himself reflected in the window: the sharp suit and the ridiculous headdress. A heavy-jawed, unsmiling young man with short blond hair and narrow, pale eyes that people found difficult to read. With a snort of disgust he removed the crown and carried it to where Max Dornberger lay in the bed.
‘Well, old man, what if I actually believed your madness? Even if it does exist, how will I find it?’
There was no answer, and he had expected none.
He replaced the crown with as much care as he’d removed it and returned the bag to the safe, punching random numbers into the keypad to engage the lock. When he was satisfied, he leaned over the bed and kissed his father’s forehead. If he had seen himself he would have been surprised at the affection the gesture displayed. He picked up the recorder from the top of the safe and stared at it for a few moments, as if he expected it to tell him its secrets, but it was as silent as the old man.
Shaking his head at his own foolishness, he reached for the door handle.
The word was like a whisper on the wind.
‘What?’ he demanded, but he knew what he’d heard.
MYRON DELOITE BROKE
open the double-barrel shotgun with a satisfying snap, blew the dust from the mechanism and carefully slipped the two buckshot-filled cartridges snugly into their chambers. The action made him grin because it reminded him of Wednesday night behind the garages with Soraya. Damn, she was good, was that Soraya. But Soraya didn’t come cheap. She liked to be romanced with a little love weed and maybe a couple lines of blow to get her in the mood. It was girls like Soraya that had got Myron into trouble, but he just couldn’t stay away from their hot little bodies and busy little hands. Satisfied, he snapped the barrels back into place and polished them with a filthy piece of cloth he’d found in a cupboard of the rented flat. It had once been a fine gun, but someone had crudely shortened the stock by cutting away six inches of polished oak and the dark-sheened metal barrels had been sawn off two inches in front of the fore-grip,
it around two feet long. Ideally, Myron would have preferred a pistol, or maybe even one of them dinky little Mach-10 babies that sprayed out thirty rounds in the time it took to spit, but the shotgun was cheap and Myron Deloite PLC was currently having cash flow problems. The main thing about the shotgun was that it was simple and it made a fucking big hole in whatever you pointed it at. He’d seen what it could do, cos he’d insisted on a demonstration. Ol’ Myron might be a little slow, but he wasn’t dumb. Din’t want no shotgun blowin’ up in his face.
He tied a piece of string round the butt and formed a loop big enough so it would go over his shoulder. It took two or three attempts before he got the length right, but eventually the gun hung snugly against his right thigh, with enough slack so he could easily bring it up and fire it from the hip. The long black coat he’d stolen from the bar a few nights earlier hung on a hook behind the door. Now he put it on and studied himself in the mirror. No telltale bulges or awkward angles. He’d have to sit with his leg straight on the Tube, but he could suffer that. He unbuttoned the coat again to make sure the gun was easy to access and tried it a couple of times to get the feel of it. Damn, that was good; felt like he was Clint Eastwood.
Do you feel lucky, punk?
Myron had watched the mark for three days before he’d eventually found what he’d been looking for. Three whole fucking days standing about in the rain or sitting in expensive coffee shops nursing a cup of mocha with
waitress staring at him like he was a piece of dog shit somebody’d walked in on their shoe. The house to the Tube to his office. Office to the Tube to his house. Never went out at night. Never strayed. Didn’t the man do
on his own? It was only when he’d arrived early at the house after an all-nighter that he discovered Mr Man was a
. Mr Man liked to run round the park at first light, all on his lonesome. And Mr Man was dumb. Because Myron had sneaked along to watch on four consecutive mornings and Mr Man never changed his route, not even to run in the opposite direction. And that meant Mr Man was a dead man.
Myron looked at his wrist. The Rolex watch with the Timex action said 4.35 a.m. and Mr Man’s runs started at 6.15 sharp. Plenty of time to get the first train out of Brixton and reach Lancaster Gate in time to make the walk through the park to the spot he had identified as the killing zone.
The image of the hit in his head exhilarated him, but he felt a little sluggish.
These early mornings are killing me, man
. He grinned broadly at his own joke. What he needed was a pick-me-up to clear his mind. He fumbled in the drawer until he found one of the sachets of white powder. Even the sight of it made his heart beat a little faster. Pure Colombian coke. Still owed for, but that was what this was all about. When the business acquaintance who supplied Myron with his recreational substances suggested he could wipe out his debts
set himself up with a nest-egg, Myron was in no position to
it down. He’d done these little jobs before. True, some had worked out better than others, but he was still here, wasn’t he? Mr Man was a spoiled white rich boy. He wouldn’t know what hit him. Myron poured a line of white powder onto the desk top and snorted it straight from the scarred plastic. It was like a jolt of electricity to the brain. Everything looked better already.