In this outstanding supernatural thriller from bestseller Burke (Kidnapped), her first venture into paranormal territory, Tyler Hawthorne, a British officer wounded at Waterloo, receives a memento mori ring on the battlefield from "Messenger" Lucien Adrian deVille, Lord Varre. The ring grants the wearer immortality, but in exchange Tyler must forever comfort the dying. Tyler also gets Shade, a black cemetery dog, for protection. In the present, a salvage diver uncovers Adrian's remains in a ship sunk in the Caribbean in 1815. A resurrected Adrian uses the diver to help locate Tyler in Los Angeles, where Tyler is attending to a leukemia patient. Tyler, an ageless 24, has also fallen for wealthy Amanda Clarke, who's haunted by family members killed in an accident that she survived. Mutual attraction and a dedication to do good unite the pair against the evil Adrian. Shade lends a distinctive Dean Koontzian flavor to the action, while Charlaine Harris fans will appreciate Amanda's ghostly abilities. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The Messengerby Jan Burke
Who is Tyler Hawthorne?
Beneath the Caribbean Sea, a salvage diver hears an eerie voice calling to him from the wreckage of a nineteenth-century ship. In return for promised riches, the diver becomes the servant of Adrian deVille, Lord Varre, the creature who has called to him. It's a bargain the diver will come to regret. Varre/b>/big>… See more details below
Who is Tyler Hawthorne?
Beneath the Caribbean Sea, a salvage diver hears an eerie voice calling to him from the wreckage of a nineteenth-century ship. In return for promised riches, the diver becomes the servant of Adrian deVille, Lord Varre, the creature who has called to him. It's a bargain the diver will come to regret. Varre enlists him in a hunt for a man named Tyler Hawthorne.
Ten years later, in a canyon in the foothills above Los Angeles, Amanda Clarke has become curious about her new neighbor, Tyler Hawthorne. He's not home much, but others tell her that her new neighbor is about her age -- twenty-four. He's also wealthy, handsome, and single.
Amanda soon suspects that another description can be added to the list of Tyler's attributes: con artist. When Tyler shows up at the hospice room of her friend Ron and tells the dying man he'll live, Amanda angrily resents Tyler for giving Ron false hope.
Until Ron begins to recover.
Although Tyler continues to puzzle her, Amanda finds herself drawn to him.
Tyler finds himself drawn to Amanda as well, but he has a secret he must keep from her: he's been twenty-four for almost two hundred years.
Two centuries ago, he bargained for his life. In exchange, he became a Messenger, one who hears the final thoughts of the dying and conveys those last messages to their loved ones. Since that time, his life has been nomadic and -- except for the companionship of a remarkable black dog -- solitary.
The dying also convey messages to Tyler and now they are hinting that his long service may be coming to an end. He begins to hope that he can return to a normal, mortal life and allows himself to grow closer to Amanda, unaware that he is being pursued by an old enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy him and that he can only leave his role as the Messenger behind at a dreadful cost.
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Come to me.
Frightened, Eduardo Leblanc shook his head within the diving helmet, the way a dog would shake water from its fur -- trying to rid himself of the voice inside his skull.
Far below the surface of the Caribbean Sea, he had lost contact with the salvage ship, the Declan. The communication unit on his diving helmet had malfunctioned. He had been listening to an exchange between Krantz -- the crew's marine archeologist, the only other diver down on this shift -- and the ship. Suddenly the comm unit cut out, and Eduardo heard nothing other than the exhaust of bubbles from his helmet and the usual soft noises of his equipment.
He looked over at Krantz. Krantz was in charge here, supervising the underwater recovery work they were doing on the Morgan Bray, an American merchant ship that had sunk in 1815. The light for video equipment on the archeologist's helmet was on, as was Eduardo's. As far as Eduardo could tell, both cameras were still running. Through the faceplate of Krantz's mask, Eduardo could see he was still speaking to the ship, or at least narrating what his camera was seeing.
Come to me, and all will be well.
This was the second time Eduardo had heard the voice. The same thing had happened on his first dive in these waters, two days ago. The communications device cut out. He heard the voice. He felt afraid, and then -- then the fear changed. Now Eduardo's fear once again began to give way to a sense of anticipation. He looked anxiously between Krantz and a small mound of sand a few feet away, one among many that undoubtedly covered artifacts from the Morgan Bray.
He checked the connector for the communications cable hookup on his air hat -- the model was one of the finest available to commercial divers -- to ensure that nothing was loose. As he expected, all attachments were secure, although nothing he did brought the transmissions back. He looked back at the mound.
This morning, as he readied for this dive, he told himself that he had only imagined the strange sensations he felt two days ago, and that certainly the voice he had heard was not real. He blamed the experience on a lack of sleep, thought of it as a hallucination -- they were not unknown in this profession. The voice was inside his head, and not being heard over the system, or anywhere outside his own skull.
Now he heard it again, and turned back to the mound of sand among the scattered wreckage, feeling quite sure that this was the place the voice wanted him to be. With every passing moment, he felt better about his decision to heed its call. The nearer he came to the mound, the greater his sense of calm contentment. Why had he ever worried about the voice?
The comm unit suddenly came back online, and the archeologist, who had never treated Eduardo as anything but a mule in a diving suit, asked, in a tone of suspicion, what he was doing so far away from where he was supposed to be working.
The voice fed him his lines.
Tell him, "My talking apparatus failed again."
Eduardo heard himself effortlessly translate this odd phrase to his own wording. "My comm unit went out again," he said.
Krantz frowned. "That's dangerous -- "
Tell him, "It seems to be working now."
"It seems to be working now," he heard himself echo.
Keep him happy, do your work. Come back to me when it is one hour before the time to begin your ascent. I am about to make you wealthy and more powerful than you have ever been in your life.
This now seemed entirely reasonable to Eduardo. He moved away from the mound and he and the archeologist continued their survey work, Krantz ordering him about as usual, until it was an hour before the time for the next team to take a shift. When the next prompting of the voice commanded him to stop what he was doing and walk back to the mound, Eduardo obeyed without hesitation.
"Eduardo!" Krantz said impatiently.
Eduardo looked back at him. A blank look came over Krantz's face, then he turned and went back to work on recovering what appeared to be a ship's bell.
He won't bother you now, the voice said. Listen carefully, Eduardo, and I'll ensure he never bothers you again.
Eduardo's radio went out again.
Eduardo decided that the breakdown of the comm unit wasn't such a bad thing. It was really great not hearing the ship give him orders. Being bossed around was no more fun underwater than it was on the surface.
Later he would wonder why he failed to perceive that the voice in the sea was far more commanding than any of his supervisors' voices. Right now, it didn't seem so much to be ordering him as coaxing him.
Do you want what I offer? Riches beyond imagination? Knowledge and power?
In Eduardo's mind, visions arose. He suddenly saw himself surrounded by beautiful women, pictured himself driving up to a mansion in a luxury car. He saw himself being treated differently, not as a menial laborer, dismissed as a young fool, but as an important person, someone others made way for, someone they admired.
Do you want these things? Truly want them? Do you have the courage to take what is before you, or will you live your whole life regretting that you failed to take this opportunity? I offer you the ability to move in the first circles of society. A life of leisure. The wealth to buy jewels, horses, land -- to dress in nothing but the finest clothing. Do you want these, and other pleasures you dare not even dream of now? Say yes, Eduardo. Say yes.
Eduardo vaguely noted that the voice's accent was British. He frowned. Working in the Caribbean, Eduardo had been around plenty of Englishmen, and this voice didn't sound like any Englishman he had ever met before. Even the accent didn't explain how strange his words were, or why it was that when the voice said "horses," Eduardo thought of race cars.
"Who are you?" Eduardo asked. "Are you the devil?"
Eduardo heard a soft laugh. No, I'm not the devil. Think of me as someone who was cheated, and needs your help to regain what is rightfully his own. I am willing to reward you handsomely for your help.
Eduardo felt a little easier, hearing that. But he asked, "If you're not the devil, then who are you? What's your name?"
If you insist on a name -- I have most recently been known as Adrian, Lord Varre.
Immediately the thought came to Eduardo that he must never call this being Adrian. He must address him as "my lord."
Indeed! Now say, "Yes, my lord, I agree to become your servant."
Eduardo hesitated. If this was all a hallucination, then what harm would it do to follow it through, as one would in a dream? And if not -- he suddenly imagined one of the other divers saying yes to the voice, someone else getting all the wealth. His wealth. His race cars.
Riches, Eduardo. Think of going back home and showing them how well you've done for yourself.
It did not occur to Eduardo to ask how the voice knew this secret wish of his.
"Yes, my lord, I agree to become your servant," he said.
He waited for lightning to strike, even here on the floor of the sea. He braced himself, expecting Satan to appear before him, to tell him that he was going straight to hell. Instead, he heard only the soft sounds of the sea and his own equipment. Gradually, he was filled with a sense of well-being. Everything would be fine. He had nothing to worry about.
Excellent. Now, you must recover an object. I will help to ensure that no one knows you have taken it.
A few hours ago, he would have immediately pointed out all the reasons why it was impossible for him to do such a thing. Now he listened carefully as the voice gave him instructions. Eduardo could no more resist reaching to uncover the object beneath the mound of sand than he could resist his own heartbeat.
The object proved to be a small metal chest, crisscrossed with thick, rusty bands of iron and bearing two heavy locks. He felt excitement, sure that whoever had carried the casket aboard the Morgan Bray had stored something extremely valuable within it -- jewels, most likely.
No, I'm afraid you won't find anything but ashes within, so for the time being this chest must remain sealed. Place it in the canvas bag attached to your belt.
Eduardo did as he was commanded. A sensation of pure bliss came to him. He felt overwhelmed by it, his mind reeling, disconnecting from his surroundings as if he were drugged.
Now, I'm going to call some of my friends to help us. You must not be afraid -- whatever slight harm they do to you will not be painful, and will merely ensure that others are distracted. For your part, you must help the other man to ascend to the surface.
Eduardo blinked, and the dazed sensation dropped away. He was startled as the comm unit suddenly started working again -- a shipmate calling frantically, "Do you read me?"
"Yes," Eduardo answered, "just came back online. I've been having trouble with my comm unit."
"Krantz told us that, but -- "
"Yes, his is working."
"No, it's not! Not for the last few minutes. I've just been getting static. Are you guys okay?"
"I'm fine. Let me check on Krantz -- he's not facing me."
When he reached Krantz, the other diver seemed to come out of a daze. By now the captain had come online.
"Begin your ascent," he ordered them. "I don't want you working down there until we get this communications problem straightened out."
So they began their careful rise toward the surface, halting as needed to avoid decompression problems.
"Can you hear me?" the captain asked when they had nearly started their last stage of the ascent.
"Yes, sir," Eduardo answered when there was no response from Krantz.
"I guess Krantz's equipment is out again. We've lost the cameras, too."
"We're almost ready to surface, sir," Eduardo said.
"Get Krantz's attention."
Eduardo reached out to the other diver and saw that although Krantz was breathing and his eyes were open, he seemed unaware of his surroundings.
"I think he may be in trouble, sir." Eduardo described Krantz's condition.
"Hang on to him," the captain said. "Bring him up as soon as you can safely do so. I'll have Doc waiting for you."
Don't be afraid, the voice said. You're about to have a little company. You must leave my friends unharmed. They're just going to help us with a distraction.
"Company?" Eduardo said.
"Say again?" the captain said.
But now Eduardo had seen large gray and white shapes swimming strongly toward them.
"We've got company," he managed to say, although his mouth was dry. It took all his will to resist pulling out his speargun.
"Say again?" the captain repeated.
"Tiger sharks. Two of them circling us now."
They came close, close enough for Eduardo to see their small eyes, their wide snouts. Both were well over twice his own size. He guessed the largest one to be about fourteen feet in length.
There was a long pause, then the captain said, "Stay calm. You know they may just be curious. Let go of Krantz if you need to defend yourself -- we can pull him up." He heard the captain giving orders to other men.
He reached the surface without harm, and was just about to hand Krantz off to the waiting crew when the sharks struck. One bit hard into Krantz's calf, causing Krantz to come out of his stupor with a scream. A moment later, Eduardo cried out in pain as well, feeling sharp teeth stab into his shoulder. The bite released, and a new wave of agony shot through him as strong hands hauled him up from the water.
Chaos reigned on deck. He nearly passed out as the crew worked to remove his equipment. It was soon seen that Krantz's injury was far worse, and while one crew member held a pressure bandage to Eduardo's wound, the doctor went to work to help the archeologist. He felt himself go into a state of oblivion, comprehending nothing but pain, and when his thoughts began to clear, the first of them was directed at the voice: You tricked me.
He waited for a response, even wondered if he had indeed hallucinated the whole thing, but then a reply came to him.
Tricked you? Not at all. Your wound will heal. For reasons you will come to understand later, it would not do for you to come out of the attack unscathed. Quickly now, hide the collection bag beneath that bench to your right. Trust me to keep the others occupied -- and remember, you have pledged your obedience to me.
He considered resisting, considered arguing, but he wanted the chest to himself, so he did as he was told. As he started to reach for the bag, Krantz began thrashing about on the deck, and even the man who was holding the bandage against his shoulder abandoned him to help with Krantz. No one saw him stash the bag among the life vests stowed beneath the bench.
Return to me when you awaken tonight, the voice said. Soon we will leave this ship together. I will show you where to find riches, and you will help me to find a man named Tyler Hawthorne.
Eduardo lost consciousness.
Three days later, as the Declan lay in dock, the captain gave Eduardo Leblanc the pay he had earned, and a substantial bonus as well. He had tried to persuade the young man not to give up diving -- he believed Eduardo had a talent for the work. But he understood completely. A shark attack was a rare occurrence, but he could hardly expect Eduardo not to fear it. In truth -- and quite understandably -- Eduardo hadn't been himself since the attack.
"Doc said your wound is healing remarkably well," the captain said, "and that you shouldn't have any trouble from it in the future. But -- there's always more to something like this than the injury itself, of course. If there's anything more I can do for you..."
"Thank you, sir," Eduardo said. "I'll be fine. I appreciate all you've done for me, but I need to move on."
The captain fell silent. He had taken Eduardo under his wing, but he wasn't the kid's father, after all. Perhaps he would be fine. "What will you do now?"
"Oh, I'll keep looking for treasure -- I'm just going to look for it on land."
The captain smiled. "I wish you luck. But if you fail to find it, you can always get a job with Declan Salvage."
Eduardo thanked him again.
As he watched him go, the captain sighed and shook his head. Young men could be such fools. Copyright © 2009 by Jan Burke
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