Authors: Steve Alten
Something hungry is in the loch… and it's not the gentle Nessie of Scottish lore! Marine biologist Zach Wallace, fresh from a near drowning in the Sargasso Sea during an expedition in search of the elusive giant squid, returns to his Scottish birthplace when his estranged father is accused of murder. Unfortunately for Zach's father, Angus, his entire defense hinges on his claim that "something" in Loch Ness killed his business partner when he fell into the water after Angus punched him. But the trial soon becomes a media circus when more people go missing and half-eaten body parts are discovered along the shore. Zach must contend with rival scientists, interfering thrill seekers, and even a rogue remnant of the Knights Templar in his search for what is really lurking in Loch Ness.
This novel is dedicated to Ed and Tonja Davidson, for their support, guidance, and friendship… and to my grandmother, Miriam Rosen, my godparents, Edie and Is Axler, and to Ann Roof, for always pushing me to write "that big one."
Loch Ness holds secrets that date back to A.D. 565 and the time of St. Columba. But does a creature really inhabit its depths? After hundreds of years, thousands of reported sightings, and dozens of scientific expeditions, we have theories, but still no definite answer.
When I began the task of researching this novel, I found it imperative to separate the legend of the Loch Ness monster from the body of real science. Then, after concluding the first edit on the manuscript, I was confronted with a new theory from a cryptozoologist and fan of my MEG series who had spent years investigating the Loch. His research, combined with rumors surrounding a recent discovery, were not only credible, but go far in identifying the species of Loch Ness's famous inhabitant. His evidence also helped to explain the lack of photographic proof. Convinced that these theories were both cutting edge and credible, I re-edited my manuscript to include this important new information.
remains fiction, however, the science behind the story is quite real.
—Steve Alten, Ed.D.
To receive updates regarding ongoing developments at Loch Ness, go to
It is with great pride and appreciation that I acknowledge those who contributed to the completion of
First and foremost, to my friend and business partner, Ed Davidson, whose support and guidance allowed me the freedom to spread my creative wings. Thanks also to Bob Bellin and the rest of the staff at Tsunami Books.
Heartfelt thanks to my literary manager and friend, Ken Atchity, his partner, Chi Li Wong, and his team at Atchity Entertainment International. To Clint Greenleaf and his staff at Greenleaf Book Group, Allison Pickett (Production Manager), Courtney Poremski (Layout Designer), and Hilary Turner (Managing Editor). Thanks also to Joel McKuin of Colden, McKuin & Frankel.
My sincerest appreciation to Hollywood producer David Foster at David Foster Productions and his associate, Ryan Heppe, for taking on the dramatic rights of
. I am honored.
With pride, I acknowledge the invaluable contributions of investigator Bill McDonald (
) and crypzoologist Richard Freeman who generously made available their new theories regarding the chief resident of Loch Ness.
Thanks also to Calum Forrest, copy editors Bob and Sara Schwager, Bill Raby, editor Claire Wilson (Scotland) and storyboard artist Rikin Parekh (England) for their contributions. A very special thanks to Vincent Guastini.
To my assistant, Leisa Cotner-Cobbs, for her talent and expertise in updating the
website as well as all her work in the Adopt-An-Author program, to Michelle Przystas, my computer "savior" at Southeast Business Solutions, and to Erik Hollander, for his tremendous cover design and graphic artistry.
Last, to my wife and partner, Kim, for all her support, to my parents for always being there, and to my readers: Thank you for your correspondence and contributions. Your comments are always a welcome treat, your input means so much, and you remain this author's greatest asset.
—Steve Alten, Ed.D.
Nature is often obscure or impenetrable, but she is not, like Man, deceitful.
Shadows walk. What is… isn't. What isn't… may be.
It was July 13, the summer of 2000. My husband and I were on holiday in Scotland, on the shores of Loch Ness. We'd stopped to take a picture of the lake, just to have something to show my friends. I was using my little Kodak with a 23mm lens. The shot I snapped was taken near Boleskin House, by one of the deepest parts of the lake. The Loch was glassy calm, and there were no boats around. When we saw the developed photo, well… we were shocked.
The object is definitely on the film, it's not a mark on the negative.
25 September 1330
he deep blue waters of the Moray Firth crashed violently against the jagged shoreline below. William Calder, second Thane of Cawdor, stood on an outcropping of rock just beyond the point where the boiling North Sea met the mouth of the River Ness. Looking to the south, he could just make out the single-sheeted Spanish galley. The tall ship had been in port since dawn, its crew exchanging silver pieces for wool and cod.
Calder's daughter, Helen, joined him on the lookout. "Ye're needed. A wounded man's come ashore, a soldier. He's demandin' tae see a Templar."
* * *
The young man had been left on a grassy knoll. His face was pale and unshaven, his blue-gray eyes glassy with fever. His battle dress, composed of chain mail, was stained crimson along the left quadrant of his stomach. A long sword lay by his side, its blade smeared in blood.
A silver casket, the size of a small melon, hung from his unshaven neck by a gold chain.
William Calder stood over the soldier, joined by two more of his clan. "Who are ye, laddie?"
"I need tae speak wi' a Templar."
"Ye'll speak tae no one 'til ye've dealt wi' me. In whit battle did ye receive yer wounds?"
"Tebas de Ardales."
"An' who did ye fight under?"
"Sir James the Good."
"The Black Douglas?" Calder turned to his men. "Fetch a physician and be quick. Tell him we may need a chirurgeon as well."
"Yes, m'lord." The two men hurried off.
"Why dae ye seek the Templar, laddie?"
The soldier forced his eyes open against the fever. "Only the Templar can be trusted tae guard my keep."
"Is that so?" Calder bent to remove the prized object resting upon the man's chest piece—the soldier's sword raising quickly to kiss Calder's throat. "I'm sorry, m'lord, but I wis instructed tae relinquish this only tae a Templar."
* * *
The sun was late in the summer sky by the time Thomas MacDonald arrived at William Calder's home. More Viking than Celt, the burly elder possessed thick auburn-red hair and a matted matching beard. Draped across his broad shoulders was a white tunic, emblazoned with four scarlet equilateral triangles, their points meeting in the center to form a cross.
MacDonald entered without knocking. "A'right, William Calder, why have ye summoned me frae Morayshire?"
Calder pointed to the young soldier, whose wounded left side was being bandaged by a physician. "The laddie claims tae have fought under the Black Douglas. Says he traveled frae Spain tae seek the Templar."
MacDonald approached. "I'm o' the Order, laddie. Who are ye?"
"Adam Wallace. My faither wis Sir Richard Wallace o' Riccarton."
Both men's eyebrows raised. "Ye're kin tae Sir William?"
"He wis my first cousin, my faither his uncle. I still carry William's sword in battle."
Calder examined the offered blade, sixty-six inches from point to pommel. "I dinnae see any markings on the hilt that designate this tae be Sir William's."
MacDonald nodded. "William aye kept it clean. A fine sword it is, fit for an Archangel tae wield, yet light in his terrible hand. " He pointed to the silver casket. "Tell me how ye came by this?"
"I served under Sir William Keith for jist under a year, ever since the Bruce fell tae leprosy. Oor king had aye wished tae take part in the crusades against the Saracens, but kent he wis dyin'. He asked for the contents o' this casket tae be buried in the Church o' the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Black Douglas wis tae lead the mission, joined by Sir William Sinclair, Sir Keith, an' mysel'."
"When we arrived in Spain, Alfonso XI of Castile and Leon… he convinced Sir James tae join his vanguard against Osmyn, the Moorish governor of Grenada. The Black Douglas agreed, an' we set off on the twenty-fifth of March, that is, all but Sir William Keith, who had injured his arm frae a fa' an' couldnae fight."
"The battle went badly. The Black Douglas wis deceived by a feint, an' the Moors' cavalry broke through oor ranks. It happened so fast, bodies an' blood everywhere, that I could scarcely react. I saw Sir William Sinclair fa' doon, followed by the Black Douglas. An' then a sword caught my flank, an' I fell.
"When next I awoke, it wis dark. My nostrils were fu' o' blood, an' my left side burned. It wis a' I could dae tae regain my feet beneath the bodies. I wanted tae flee, but first I had tae find the Black Douglas. By the half-moon's light, I searched one corpse tae the next 'till I located his body, guardin' the Bruce's casket even in death. By then, the dawn had arrived an' Sir Keith wi' it. He dressed my wounds, but fearful o' another Islamic attack, suggested we separate. I wis tae return tae Scotland, then make my way to Threave Castle, stronghold o' Archibald the Grim, Sir James's son. Sir Keith wis tae return tae the Lowlands an' Melrose Abbey wi' the casket."
"But yer plans changed, I see."
"Aye. On the eve o' oor sail, Sir Keith took sick wi' dropsy. Fearful o' his condition, I decided it best if the casket remained wi' me and too' it frae him."
Calder pulled MacDonald aside. "Do ye believe him?"
"But why does he seek a Templar?"
"Bruce wis a Mason, born intae the Order. The contents o' the casket belong tae Scotland. It represents nothin' less than oor freedom."
MacDonald turned back toward Adam. "Ye were right tae come here, laddie. Whit lies within that silver container's far ower important tae leave in any abbey. There's a cave, a day's walk frae here, known only tae the Templar. If Cooncil agrees, then I'll take the casket there and—"
"No ye willnae!" Adam interrupted. "The coven's between the Bruce an' the Wallace Clan. Direct me, an' I shall take it there mysel'."
"Dinnae be a fool, ye dinnae ken whit ye're sayin'. The cave I've in mind leads tae Hell, guarded by the De'il's ain minions."
"I'm no' feart."
"Aye, but ye will be, Adam Wallace. An' it's a fear ye'll carry wi' ye 'til the end o' yer days."
Sargasso Sea, Atlantic Ocean
887 miles due east of Miami Beach
he Sargasso Sea is a two-million-square-mile expanse of warm water, adrift in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. An oasis of calm that borders no coastline, the sea is littered with sargassum, a thick seaweed that once fooled Christopher Columbus into believing he was close to land.
The Sargasso is constantly moving, its location determined by the North Equatorial and Gulf Stream currents, as well as those of the Antilles, Canary, and Caribbean. These interlocking forces stabilize the sea like the eye of a great hurricane, while causing its waters to rotate clockwise. As a result, things that enter the Sargasso are gradually drawn toward its center like a giant shower drain, where they eventually sink to the bottom, or, in the case of oil, form thick tar balls and float. There is a great deal of oil in the Sargasso, and with each new spill the problem grows worse, affecting all the sea creatures that inhabit the region.