Read The Lucifer Gospel Online

Authors: Paul Christopher

Tags: #Archaeologists, #General, #Photographers, #Suspense fiction, #Thrillers, #Suspense, #Fiction, #Espionage

The Lucifer Gospel

BOOK: The Lucifer Gospel
2.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



Lucifer’s Gospel



From the national bestselling author of
Michelangelo’s Notebook


Evil lives forever.


Archaeologist Finn Ryan and pilot Virgil Hilts are scouring the Sahara for the long-lost tomb of an Apostle when they stumble upon signs of a decades-old murder, along with an ancient Roman medallion bearing the infamous name of a fallen archangel.


But this relic is only the first piece of an enigmatic puzzle that will take Finn and Virgil across the globe from the sinister ruins of an ancient monastery to the wreck of a sunken ship in the Caribbean, to find a truth that might shake the foundations of history-or see them dead.






Lucifer’s Gospel



A Novel by



Paul Christopher




Book Two in the
Finn Ryan Series
Copyright © 2006
by Paul Christopher








For Lloyd and Sharon
because they deserve one at last,
my friends in the Czech Republic







Many thanks to Kara Welsh and to Claire Zion and of course to my editor nonpareil, Brent Howard. Long may you prosper.







The American Airlines 777 circled the ancient city, invisible within a dark brown smudge of air pollution. Finn Ryan stared out her window on the wide-body jet and frowned. For her first sight of the land of the pharaohs it wasn’t a very inspiring view. Pittsburgh on the Nile.

“Urine,” said the man in the seat beside her. He was craning his neck for a look out the window. He was in his early thirties, dark-haired and handsome if you liked the slightly beat-up, untidy look.

“Pardon me?” Finn answered. She was younger than he was, red-haired and beautiful.

“Urine,” the man repeated. “That’s the first thing you notice when you get off the plane. ”The whole place smells like pee.”

“Thanks for sharing,” said Finn.

The man grinned, his whole face brightening. “Every city has its own particular smell, have you noticed that? London smells like a wet cigar, Dublin smells exactly like a brewery… which figures, I guess. Hong Kong reeks like the inside of a chicken farm, New York has this faint undertone of rotting garbage.”

“I never noticed that about New York,” said Finn. Most of her life had been spent in her home-town of Columbus, and then New York City, where she now lived. She hadn’t done an awful lot of traveling.

“That’s because you live there, right?” said the man. “You’ve gotten used to it, that’s all, but it’s there, believe me. Prague smells exactly like a leftover pork roast. Geneva smells like room deodorizer, Paris smells like an old lady’s shoes. In Saigon it’s fish soup. It’s true.”

Finn tried to remember if Columbus had any particular odor. The only thing she could recall was the cool tang of the Scioto River in the summer and apple blossoms in the spring. “What does it smell like where you come from?” she asked.

“A giant car ashtray,” he said. “Los Angeles.” He held out his hand. “My name’s Hilts.”

She took the hand briefly. The grip was strong and dry. “Finn Ryan.”

“Finn. Short for Fiona, right?”

“That’s right,” she said and nodded, surprised. He was quick.

“I like Finn better. Fiona’s kind of… prudish, I guess.”

She decided not to respond to that. “Do you have a first name?”

“Hilts. Just Hilts.” He pointed his chin out the window. “First time in Cairo?”

Finn nodded. “First time anywhere, really. I just got my master’s. It seems like I’ve spent my whole life in school.”


“Job. Technical illustrator for an archaeological expedition.” She liked the sound of that. Archaeological expedition. It brought up images of men in pith helmets and King Tut’s tomb. Agatha Christie mysteries. She froze at the thought of the word “mystery.” She’d had enough of that kind of thing the year before to last her a lifetime. She remembered the dying map in the old crypt tunnel and shivered.

“Sounds interesting.”

“We’ll see.” Finn shrugged. “It’s in Libya. The first time they’ve allowed an American dig there in more than fifty years.”

“Libya hasn’t been on the best terms with us for a while,” Hilts said. “The western desert is kind of spooky. It really is like a frozen sea. The worst storm ever, sculpted out of sand. The dunes are like the biggest Hawaiian surfing waves you’ve ever seen, except bigger, and even more dangerous, except for different reasons.” He paused, his grin replaced by a grimace. “The part that’s not dunes is even worse, like an endless rocky beach with no ocean. Boiling in the daytime, freezing cold at night. It’s where Dante got his idea for Hell.”

“You’ve been there?”

Hilts laughed. “Sweetheart, I’ve been everywhere.”

She looked at him; it wasn’t a boast, just a statement of fact. The word “sweetheart” came out like a travel-weary sigh. “So what do you do that takes you everywhere?” Finn asked.

“I’m a photographer,” he answered. Suddenly the aircraft leaned heavily to the right. Finn held her breath. The conversation was cut short by the pinging of the public-address system and the stewardess announcing their final approach. They were landing.







Finn was swept out of the aircraft along with five hundred other passengers, most of them Egyptians coming home on vacation to see their families. She moved through the laughing, chattering crowd, eventually found her luggage, and then spent almost an hour in a lineup at a customs desk to clear her bags. The terminal concourse was almost unbearably packed with meeters and greeters, but she eventually made her way to the doors of the glass-fronted building relatively unscathed and unmolested, except for a couple of quick anonymous clutches as she was getting out of the jetway and a clumsy attempt to unzip the bag on her hip and steal her wallet while she was emerging from customs. By the time she’d made her way through the crowds at customs and the even bigger throngs at immigration and finally reached the terminal exit, she’d paid out close to a hundred dollars American in “gratuities” and “fees” to half a dozen airport employees and officials.

When she stepped out of the building the heat hit her like a fist. So did the smell. On the ground the pollution was almost invisible, just a metallic haze in the distance, but the stink was just like the guy Hilts had said. It smelled like a giant litter box. Finn almost laughed out loud. All those years in school and it had come to this.

She looked around. There were people everywhere. Thousands of them. Tens of thousands of them, and they all seemed to know exactly where they were going. About half the men were wearing Western dress, while the other half wore a bewildering variety of the long flowing robes called
. Some were turbaned, some wore small white embroidered skullcaps she knew were called
and others wore the Lawrence of Arabia-style
with their braided silk-rope circlets. The women, dressed in skirts or in the more traditional robes, all had their heads covered, some only with scarves, while others were fully veiled. Her own copper-colored hair, tied back in a ponytail and barely covered by her battered old Toronto Blue Jays baseball cap, was drawing a lot of attention from the men, and none of it good.

Cars, trucks, minibuses, scooters, taxis, and tour busses crowded the curb. Horns blared, people yelled and gestured; there was even a horse-drawn cart with huge rubber wheels piled high with battered hubcaps. Finn found herself grinning broadly. It was hot as hell and blindingly sunny. The sounds were painfully loud and the traffic added its own sour smell to the air. It was a madhouse.

And it was wonderful.

With her carry-on in one hand and dragging a suitcase behind her, Finn threaded her way through the bustling crowd looking for the driver that had been promised. She’d been expecting an appropriately adventurous Discovery Channel Toyota Land Cruiser, or better yet, a Land Rover. What she got was a distressingly rusted Fiat ambulance that at some stage in its long career had been converted into a minibus. Once upon a time the Fiat had been red, but it had long since faded to pink. Finn could still see the almost invisible white cross on the door and the word ’emergency” along the side. Standing beside it was a young man in blue jeans, a skintight Shoenfelt T-shirt, and shiny Elvis Presley hair. He looked about sixteen, but she knew he had to be older than that. He was smoking a cigarette and clearly trying to look like Al Pacino in
. He was carrying a cardboard sign that read ADAMSON EXPEDITION. Her smile widened even farther; it was amazing what that word “expedition” could do for your energy level after a long flight in a crowded airplane.

She humped her luggage across the broad sidewalk and crossed the street to the flat-nosed vehicle. “I’m Finn Ryan.”

BOOK: The Lucifer Gospel
2.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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