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Authors: Chris Karlsen

Byzantine Gold

BOOK: Byzantine Gold
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Byzantine Gold

Chris Karlsen

Byzantine Gold

A Books to Go Now Publication

Chris Karlsen

Books to Go Now

For information on the cover illustration and design, contact [email protected]

First eBook Edition –December 2012

Warning: the unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously.

If you are interested in purchasing more works of this nature, please stop by

Look for Chris Karlsen’s other best-selling books

Golden Chariot

Journey in Time

Heroes Live Forever

Dedication: To Mike, Althea, Bill, and Pat.


I would like to thank MCM for his advice and assistance with the tactical scene. I would also like to thank Alyssa Jakum of The Dance Within who choreographed Charlotte’s dances.

Chapter One


Charlotte and Atakan stopped midway on Sacre Coeur’s steep staircase to admire the basilica’s architecture. The Romanesque-Byzantine influence reminded her of historical buildings in Istanbul, their home. With the variegated onion-shaped domes and turrets similar to minarets, the church was one of the more unique city structures.

“So beautiful,” Charlotte said, “like an artifact on top of the skyline. Striking, isn’t it?” Atakan hadn’t said much as they came up the hill. She wasn’t sure if he was impressed or not.

“Reminds me of an Ottoman wedding cake,” he replied.

“Seeing this makes me anxious to start the Cyprus recovery project,” Charlotte said, adding, “Provided they select me for the team.

“They will.”

Atakan embraced her from behind and nuzzled her neck, the uber sensitive side, then rested his chin on her head. She giggled, wrapped her arms around his and pressed deeper into his chest. He rarely showed his romantic side in public. Apparently, the romance of Paris had inspired him. She opened her mouth to say as much, but changed her mind. Why spoil the moment?

“You have a taste for Byzantine style jewelry. The Cyprus shipwreck is from that period. Perhaps the team will get lucky and find a cache of jewelry at the site. You’ll have the opportunity to hold authentic pieces.” He released his embrace and moved next to her. “Shall we?”

A faint shiver trickled down her spine with the loss of his body’s warmth. They continued to the basilica’s entrance and went inside.

“Let’s go to the dome first,” Charlotte said.

They climbed the narrow, spiral staircase eighty-three meters to the top, holding hands as they strolled along the gallery enjoying the panoramic sight.

Atakan stopped to study the elegant capitals topping the support columns. “Excellent stonework,” he said with his archaeologist’s eye for detail.

She leaned over the railing to people watch. Below her, guides led clusters of tourists to the apse, famous for its golden mosaics and from there to different quiet corners of the basilica to point out the highlights.

“Charlotte, turn around. Smile.” Atakan played with the camera in his phone for a few seconds then snapped a photo. “I’ll be right back. I want one of the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe.”

She continued to people watch from her birds-eye view. A lone man in a baseball cap walked up the main aisle. He wore sunglasses in spite of the overcast April sky. He kept his hands in the pockets of his bomber jacket and looked straight ahead, showing no interest in the stained glass windows or other architectural features.

She turned her attention to the constant stream of worshipers who took seats on pews away from the tour groups. Some knelt and prayed, others sat with eyes closed, their hands folded, and listened to the nuns singing.

A large group of tourists and the lone male approached the chancel, directly below Charlotte. The man stepped aside to allow the guide and her charges to pass. Then, he removed his cap and glasses, looked up at Charlotte, and smiled.

The past terror she’d buried and fought to forget returned with a vengeance. Rocked, she sucked in a fear-driven gasp and reflexively jerked back.

She shook off the panic. Angry with herself for the way she reacted and pissed that the bastard still had that effect she peered over the rail again. Maybe she was wrong.

She wasn’t. The same brush-cut hair, the same dimpled smile as he kept his eyes on her, the handsome Slavic face was forever etched in her memory...the face of the man who’d kidnapped and tortured her.

Heart pounding, she spun, dashed to where Atakan snapped pictures and grabbed his arm. “Quick, Tischenko is here.”

“Charlotte—” He followed as she raced down the twisting staircase. Visitors coming from the other direction flattened themselves to the wall, out of her way and his.

When they reached the main floor, Atakan pushed past her and blocked her path. He held her by the upper arms. “Charlotte, stop for a moment. Where did you see him?”

She tried to pull away. “Here—he was walking down the center aisle,” she stressed, searching the faces in the crowd of visitors.

Tischenko was gone.

“I tell you, I saw him.”

Atakan continued to hold onto her as he scanned the aisles and pews. “I don’t see anyone resembling him, let alone the man himself.”

“He must’ve realized we’d chase after him. Come on, he can’t have gone far.” She broke from Atakan and hurried along the aisle with the fewest tourists and out the doors.

She hesitated on the portico. The ever-present musician buskers with their open instrument cases and people resting from the long climb littered the basilica stairs.

Her eyes darted from one person to the next. “He’s wearing a black leather jacket and ball cap. He’s not here. Which way do you think he went?” she asked, turning to Atakan. “Maybe toward the metro—Abbesses is the closest stop.”

“If I were running from a wild woman, I wouldn’t risk getting caught at a station waiting for a train.”

“I bet he ran through the gardens toward Place Saint-Pierre.” She glanced at her watch. “Almost noon. The square will be swarming with families and lunchtime diners, easy to blend in and get lost.”

She threaded her way through the crowd toward Saint-Pierre. Ahead, a fair-haired man in a black leather jacket walked at a brisk pace by the merry-go-round playing a tinny version of the
Star Wars theme.
Jogging faster, Charlotte caught up to him and yanked on his arm.

The man looked momentarily stunned.

Not Tischenko.

“Pardon monsieur,” Atakan apologized and took Charlotte aside. “Enough!”



“I’d swear—”

“It was not him at the church.”

She hadn’t thought of Tischenko in months. How likely was it for her to imagine seeing him? But if it was him, he did a great job of vaporizing.

She laid her head on Atakan’s shoulder for a long moment. He rubbed her back along the spine until the adrenaline rush passed and she calmed.

“You’re hungry,” she said at last, hearing his stomach rumble. “Le Barouder is charming and nearby.”

“No. We’re not eating anywhere in Montmartre. I don’t want to be in the middle of my food and have to chase after you because you think you’ve seen Tischenko again. We’ll find a café by the hotel.”

“Pretend for a minute, I’m right. It’s—”

it’s true, his presence here is a coincidence.”

“You don’t believe in coincidence.”

“In this case, I do.” Atakan bent and brushed her lips with a light kiss. “So intelligent and lovely, a pity you are crazy,” he teased.

“That’s what makes life with me exciting,” she said with feigned, wide-eyed innocence.

“I’m not sure exciting is the right word.”

Still uneasy, Charlotte scanned the crowd one last time.

Across the square, Maksym Tischenko stepped from the rear of the crepe vendor’s stall. Atakan and the Dashiell woman returned the way they came. Maksym took side streets that didn’t intersect with the one Atakan and Dashiell were on. At the main avenue, he hailed a cab and instructed the driver to take him to Hotel Du Danube, where the couple was staying.

Chapter Two

They chose a bistro on Boulevard Saint-Germain, opposite the touristy Café Deux Magots. The waiter offered to seat them outside at a nice table for people watching, a favorite native pastime. Charlotte opted to eat indoors. She didn’t trust the skies not to open and soak them in spite of the dark green canvas awning.

She ordered a demi-carafe of the house red wine, oeufs mayonnaise, and a salad. Atakan spoke three languages, but not French. For him, she ordered a beer and his new guilty pleasure, a croque monsieur.

As soon as the waiter set his plate down, Atakan dove into the sandwich.

“What would your mother say if she knew you ate ham?”

“She’d chastise me. Not because she truly objects but it’s the proper thing for her to do,” Atakan said between bites.

“What about your dad? I bet the military disciplinarian would give you an earful.”

“He doesn’t care a whit about religious doctrine. He hasn’t set foot near a mosque in years.”
“Is he an atheist?”

Atakan shook his head. “No, not an atheist, but he takes a philosophical approach to faith. He’s an advocate of the old Indian proverb,
‘call to God...but row away from the rocks.’”

“It’s the smart play, covers your ass either way.”

A handful of geranium petals taken by the breeze fluttered to the sidewalk. Window boxes overflowing with the flowers hung off iron grates on most floors of nearby buildings. So French.

The pretty diversion of her surroundings gave way to thoughts of Tischenko. She didn’t share Atakan’s certainty the man in Sacre Coeur wasn’t the Ukrainian. She knew what she knew, and she knew she saw her captor.

Charlotte picked at the cold eggs. “Do all the immigration checkpoints when you’re crossing from one EU country to another have a facial recognition system in place?”

“I see we’re back to discussing Tischenko.”

“I can’t help it.”

“In answer to your question, I imagine the major checkpoints do—airports and such. As for other, smaller checkpoints, for the most part they no longer exist. Border security checks aren’t imposed on citizens of EU countries. They pass freely from country to country within the Eurozone.”

“You flagged his name and identifiers through Interpol. If he did slip through the cracks, he had to use a fake passport.”

“Yes, I told you when he escaped in Sevastopol, he probably had possession or at least access to cash and false papers. Men like him usually keep a cache of such items in case they need to go to ground.

“Since we’re on the subject, what was your plan when you ran off if you had caught him?” Atakan asked.

“Hold him for the police. He is wanted.”

“What if he had a weapon, a knife for example? What if you got stabbed or injured during a struggle with him before I reached you? How do you think I’d feel?”

Through her jeans, Charlotte absently rubbed the scar left on her hip where Tischenko had cut her. “I didn’t think that far ahead. We’d still have to do something.”

“Yes, like follow him. I have this little invention called a cell phone on me. Wouldn’t the sensible thing be to keep him in our sights while one of us calls the police?”

Atakan was right. She hadn’t used her head. “I hate it when you ask annoying questions.”

She sipped her wine, analyzing the situation. Even if by a weird coincidence, Tischenko just happened to be in Paris, no way he just happened to be in the basilica while they were. Why the sudden appearance? What does he want? He had no reason to come after her, not now. That left Atakan. The man was a paid killer. If he had a contract on Atakan, there was ample opportunity to kill him in Istanbul—more so than here. For Tischenko to track them down in Paris, another motive had to exist. The more she turned things over in her mind, the less convinced she was his presence was professional in nature. That left a personal pursuit. She kept coming back to one as the strongest. Revenge. But, for what?

“Atakan, whenever you talk about your past dealings with Tischenko, it’s in vague terms. Why?”

“My history with him is neither here nor there. Must I remind you we are on vacation?”

“Indulge me.”

“What’s my second choice?”

“Death by nagging.”

“As I suspected.” Atakan finished his beer and signaled the waiter for another. “You haven’t touched your salad.”

She pushed her plate across to him.

“My first encounter with Tischenko resulted in an arrest. It was a long time ago. Since then, we’ve had a couple more contacts, but he only went to prison from the first one.”


“Why are you asking about the two of us?”

Afraid he would feel guilty, she never told him what Tischenko said when he carved his initials on her. She regretted telling Atakan now, but based on what he just revealed, a personal vendetta looked more and more possible.

“Before he cut me, he mentioned you by name. He said his mark was a message to you.”

Atakan put his fork down and shoved the salad aside. “It comes as no surprise. But how could you keep such a thing a secret from me of all people?”

“At the time, his reasons for what he did weren’t important. He was gone and I was safe. That’s what mattered to me. I know you. Had I told you, you’d blame yourself in some way and repeating it didn’t accomplish anything positive.”

He absorbed the explanation in silence. The debate between accepting her secrecy or being furious with her evident in his unblinking dark eyes.

“Why chose to tell me now?” he asked at last.

“If he is here—”

“Which is a big if.”

“He’s after you.”

“Why he picked this place and time, I can’t imagine. But, if that’s true, I’ll admit from his point of view, he believes he has cause.”


Charlotte wondered how much he’d divulge, even to her.

Atakan took another long moment to answer. “When he was in prison, he endured a savage assault. The most degrading type of attack a man can have perpetrated against him.”

“Are you insinuating what I think?”

“It was ten years ago. He was almost thirty but looked twenty. With his blond hair, blue eyes, and youthful appearance, he stood out as easy prey.”

Charlotte’s brother received the occasional threat from men he’d arrested and sent to prison. Like they blamed Nick for everything they suffered, Tischenko blamed Atakan.

A kinder person would feel some modicum of sympathy for Tischenko. She couldn’t. Nightmares of her ordeal as his captive disturbed her sleep for months after. In the dreams, she was there again, naked, tied spread-eagled on his bed, terrified beyond words. She relived feeling the heat of his body next to hers as he ran the knife over her face and breasts—all the while describing what he planned to do to her. She screamed out in her sleep when the dream knife penetrated her skin, just like she had that night. Atakan would wake her from the nightmare. He’d quietly hold her and reassure her that eventually the terrifying dreams would become less frequent. They came less often now, but when they did return, the terror was real again.

No, there was no sympathy in her heart for Tischenko and what he experienced in prison. Instead, a tingle of unforgiving vindication rippled through her, horrible as that was.

“This is about revenge,” she said. “I thought that might be the reason.”

Atakan reached across the table and wrapped her fingers in his palm. “Don’t look so worried. As I said, many years have passed and I’m still here.”

BOOK: Byzantine Gold
5.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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