Authors: Iris Johansen,Roy Johansen
Tags: #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction - Espionage, #American Mystery & Suspense Fiction, #Antiquities, #General, #Suspense, #Theft, #Thrillers, #Underwater exploration, #Fiction, #Women archaeologists, #Thriller
ALSO BY IRIS JOHANSEN
AND ROY JOHANSEN
ALSO BY IRIS JOHANSEN
Eight Days to Live
An Unexpected Song
On the Run
ALSO BY ROY JOHANSEN
The Answer Man
ST. MARTIN’S PRESS
Table of Contents
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
SHADOW ZONE. Copyright © 2010 by Johansen Publishing
LLLP, and Roy Johansen. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
For information, address St. Martin’s Press,
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
First Edition: July 2010
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
A faithful friend
who brought much love and laughter into the world
Samuel Debney piloted his motorboat up Venice’s Grand Canal, wishing he had never heard that word.
He had been only vaguely aware of it before, but in the past two weeks the name had come to mean many things to him. Awe. Wonder. Wealth. Fear. Ugliness. Death.
Had it only been two weeks since it had totally consumed him, wrenching him from his old life? It had been a good life, a comfortable life, but one that was now lost to him forever.
He shook his head. Can’t look back. He would soon have plenty of time to wrestle with his regrets.
The lights of Sestiere di Castello shimmered on the water as he eased off the throttle and turned down Fondamenta San Lorenzo. Three turns later, he was facing the white-plaster back side of an art gallery. He heard music in the distance, but other than that there was only the sound of water lapping against the building foundation. It was deserted and only partially visible from the adjacent waterway.
He cut the engine. Why in the hell had he agreed to this?
He knew why. Because he was tired. Because he wanted it to be over. Because he just wanted—
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Debney.”
He turned. Two men appeared from around the corner of the building. Debney tensed. He recognized them both. Gadaire’s men, whom he’d seen when he’d made the attempt to contact Gadaire. The red-haired man with the narrow face who had spoken was Tad Bekins. The smaller man with gray hair and muscles like a weight lifter was Ralph Johnson. Nasty bastards like all of Gadaire’s goons. This was not good.
Debney tried to smile, and only then did he realize that his lower lip was trembling. “Hello, Bekins, I didn’t expect you.”
“Why not?” Bekins and Johnson jumped off the concrete walkway and landed on his boat. Bekins stepped closer to him. “Mr. Gadaire was intrigued by the information you claim to have.”
“I do have it.” His lips tightened. “And if he was so intrigued, why didn’t he come himself?”
“Mr. Gadaire is a very busy man.”
“So am I. I don’t have time to waste with—”
Johnson slipped around and grabbed him from behind. As Debney struggled to break free, Bekins grabbed his arm and sliced his left wrist. Blood spurted onto the boat deck.
Debney reached for the revolver tucked into his waistband, but Johnson got there first. The man hefted it and struck him on the back of the head. In the next instant, he felt an icy cold shiver of pain on his right wrist. He looked down and saw that Bekins had cut him there, too, and his blood was now pooling at his feet.
“What in the hell are you doing?” Debney screamed.
Johnson pushed him down onto the weather-beaten seat. “You’re losing blood fast. You’ll be unconscious in seven minutes, and dead in twelve.
you tell us exactly what we need to know.”
“You’re out of your minds! I had a deal with Gadaire!”
“Deal canceled. This is the new deal,” Bekins said. “Talk. Tell us where we can find the sample.”
He was going to die. Debney rocked back and forth. “Mother of God . . .”
“The sample,” Bekins repeated. “Tell us where—” Bekins suddenly arched, his face drooping. He stumbled backwards toward the side of boat.
Debney stared in bewilderment as Bekins tried to speak. Blood. Blood pouring from his chest. Another step back, and Bekins tumbled into the canal.
“What the—” Johnson spun around to face the walkway.
A man was standing there, a tall, powerful shadow in the dimness. He took aim with the automatic handgun and fired two muffled shots. Johnson collapsed onto the cushion next to Debney, almost as if dropping down to rest.
The man with the gun stepped down onto the boat.
Debney looked up. A fog was creeping up from the back of his head. Must fight it. Must stay awake. Fall unconscious, and he was a dead man. “You . . . killed them . . .”
“Yes. I’m sure neither of us is going to miss them.” The man was powerfully built, a gleam of silver burnished the hair of his temples, and he spoke with a slight accent. Russian? “I’ll offier you the same deal those gentlemen did. Tell me what I need to know, and I’ll save your life. The difference is, I will keep my word, which those two had no intention of doing.”
“Who . . . are you?”
“Kirov.” He checked his watch. “Your time’s running out. I suggest you begin talking now. If you talk fast enough, I’ll have time to stop that blood before those wounds kill you. But I won’t start until I have what I want.” He added with lethal softness, “Believe me. I don’t bluff, Debney. Marinth. Let’s start there, shall we? Before this is over, I’m going to know everything that you know about Marinth.”
“Hey, I didn’t see you in the galley for breakfast, Hannah,” Josh Carnaby said as he strolled down the deck toward her. “You okay?”
“Fine.” Hannah Bryson made a face as she gestured to the satellite phone in her hand. “I’m just trying to get through to my sister-in-law before we go down in the minisub. I want to talk to my nephew, and the time difference between here and Boston usually screws everything up.” Her lips tightened determinedly. “But I will get through, dammit.”
She shook her head. “It’s my nephew Ronnie’s twelfth birthday.” Her expression became shadowed. “It’s the first one since my brother’s death. I want to touch base with him. It’s going to be tough on Ronnie. It’s going to be tough on all of them.”
Josh nodded soberly. “It’s only been a couple months since Conner died. The wound has to be still raw.” He was silent a moment. “Damn, I miss him. The entire crew misses him. Every time I see you, I expect Conner to be right beside you.”
As he’d been beside her all through the years, she thought. They’d not only been brother and sister, they’d worked together on hundreds of undersea projects, traveled the world together, and been best friends. She missed his sweetness, his humor, his gentle way of opening her eyes to the good things around her when all she could see was darkness. Dear God, how she missed him. “Yeah, I know.” She swallowed hard and quickly gazed out at the sun-dappled sea. Get control. She mustn’t be all teary when she talked to Ronnie. “Conner would have loved this job. He was always telling me that I spent too much time involved with machines and not enough enjoying the wonders the machines could uncover.” She smiled with an effort. “Here I don’t have a choice. The wonders are all around me whenever I go down to that lost city that all the historians are trying to link with Atlantis.”
“That city would be damn hard to uncover if you hadn’t been so brilliant and designed those minisubs.” He was silent a moment. “I just want you to know that I appreciate you letting me go down with you and having a part in this show. It’s the chance of a lifetime, and you’ve always been the best boss a guy could have. I’ll never be as good as Conner, and I know it probably hurts you to work with anyone else. But it’s been an experience I’ll never forget.”
“Bullshit,” she said unevenly. “If you weren’t terrific at your job, I wouldn’t have chosen you. We make a good team.” She drew a deep breath. “Now get out of here and let me make my telephone call. We’re supposed to dive in thirty minutes, and I won’t go down until I’ve talked to Ronnie.”
He grinned. “I’m on my way.” He moved down the deck. “I’ll even keep Ebersole away from you. He was asking for you at breakfast.”
Hannah groaned. “Then I’m glad I skipped it. For the last three days, he’s been cornering me and squeezing every bit of progress information out of me.”
“Imagine that. But since he’s chief operating officer of AquaCorp, and AquaCorp is funding our little expedition, you can understand how he’d have a
interest in the operation.”
“Moneymen,” Hannah said. “The bane of my life.” She made a shooing motion. “Go. Keep him off my back until I finish my call, and I’ll be eternally grateful.”
“Consider it done.”
She smiled as she watched him stroll away from her. Yes, Josh would find a way to give her these few moments’ respite. He’d been a member of her team for years, but she’d learned new respect and affection for him since she’d lost Conner.