Primeval: An Event Group Thrillerby David L. Golemon
The New York Times bestselling author of Ancients and Leviathan returns with another adrenaline rush--the latest thriller in the Event Group Series
Twenty thousand years ago, when man crossed the land bridge to North America, creatures called They Who Follow made the great trek as well./i>/i>/b>/b>/i>/b>/i>/i>/i>/i>
The New York Times bestselling author of Ancients and Leviathan returns with another adrenaline rush--the latest thriller in the Event Group Series
Twenty thousand years ago, when man crossed the land bridge to North America, creatures called They Who Follow made the great trek as well. But once in the new continent, the giant beasts disappeared, whether into hiding or extinction, no one knew.
Centuries later, a battered journal--the only evidence left from the night of the Romanovs' execution--turns up in a rare bookstore. As the U.S. and Russians vie for the truth, and the lost Romanov treasure, they collide with a prehistoric predator thought long-extinct.
It's up to the Event Group to lay to rest the legends. On an expedition into the wilds of British Columbia, Colonel Jack Collins and his team make a horrifying discovery in the continent's last deep wilderness, where men have been vanishing for centuries.
Read an Excerpt
An Event Group Thriller
By David Lynn Golemon
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2010 David L. Golemon
All rights reserved.
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON PRESENT DAY
The prestigious one-hundred-year-old Rainier Building had been bought in 1991 and had been completely renovated. The first sixteen floors were quite normal, if expensive, two- and three-bedroom condominiums. The seventeenth and eighteenth floors, however, belonged to just one man, the owner of the property and the person who designed the interior of the building: Valery Serta, the son of a Russian immigrant and heir to the vast fortune left to him upon his father's death in 1962. The family fortune was in the felling of the ancient forests of the great Northwest — forests that filled the pockets of the family Serta since the late twenties and supplied the U.S. markets with rich wood and paper products.
With a twenty-four-hour house staff of twelve, and with a minimum of two on duty at all times, the old man kept them busy with his imperialistic demands. A loner in his old age, the only visitor he took was from his grandson who was now a student at Harvard, and one or two old friends from the logging business. For some reason, that no one who knew him could fathom, Valery Serta never tired of hearing about the destruction of the woods that had covered the area since the dawn of time. He closed his eyes upon hearing the news of another tract of land that had been cleared and raped of the woods that covered it. The enjoyment stemmed from the dark tales his own father had passed onto him, never explaining why the woods and forests of North America held such a bad place in his heart.
The sky outside the Rainier Building was splitting open on this early Tuesday morning. The thunderclap woke the old man and he rolled over to look at the clock on his nightstand. Six thirty. He knew that sleep would not come again once it was so rudely interrupted, so he slowly threw his covers back and sat up. He yawned and felt around in the semidarkness. His thin, liver-spotted hand hit the glass of water and then he cursed in English as some of it splashed onto the expensive wood. He shook his head and reached for the dentures that he had deposited in the glass the night before. Once that was done, he slowly placed his feet into the slippers that had been perfectly placed by his maids the night before.
As he stood and placed a silken robe over his thinning frame, he stopped and listened; more important, he smelled. Sniffing the air he knew something was amiss. Every morning of his life he started the day with a pot of coffee, six eggs, potatoes, sausage, and toast. However, today there was none of those smells coming from the kitchen, which was situated on the open floor plan just below him on the first floor. He shook his head, angry that his most simple routine of the day was being usurped by people that worked for him. He angrily tied his robe and walked to the door and threw it open. As he approached the railing of the upper floor, he saw that the house was completely silent. The shades were open in the living room and the dull, cloud-laden day filtered in, letting in just enough light that he could see things lying on the floor beneath him.
"What is going on down there?" he asked as he grabbed the railing and tried to focus on the floor below.
Suddenly, a streak of lightning flashed through the twenty-foot-by-ten-foot plate-glass window that looked out over old Downtown Seattle. In that brief flash of illumination, he saw the bodies. Each of the twelve had been tied up and shot in their heads. He instantly saw his two female maids in the center of what could only be described as an execution circle with his employees' feet facing outward. With a yelp of terror, Valery Serta placed his hand over his mouth to keep the scream inside. As he started to back away, the words from the darkness, spoken in Russian, made his hand fall and the scream escaped anyway.
"We figured the view from up here into your living room would allow us to dispense with the threats of violence against you. This way you know we mean business — as your adoptive Americans would say — 'from the get-go.'" The last was said in heavily accented English.
Serta turned and saw the man who had spoken was standing in his bedroom doorway. He almost went into shock when he thought that the man must have been in his room the whole time he was sleeping.
"As my partner says, we are here for answers, and we will only ask you one time," said a smaller man who stepped from the large bathroom across the hallway. He was wiping his hands on a towel, which, when finished, he turned and tossed it on the floor. "As you can see, we will not be disturbed for the time being."
"Who are you? What do you want?"
"Now, you see, you are asking questions and wasting our valuable time. Did we not say we killed your staff so you would know we were serious men?"
The old man started shaking.
"Relax, comrade. You have to answer one question and one only, before you join your employees. Until that moment, you have no need of being afraid — you will not be mistreated — unless your answer calls for it." The smaller of the two men stepped closer to Serta. "Why should you answer, you ask?" The small man with the ponytail tied by a leather strip, nodded at the taller man who produced a cell phone and opened it, and then he pushed a single button and then listened. He handed the phone to the old man.
Serta heard a boy crying on the other end of the line. He started shaking even harder than before, enough so that the tall man held the phone for him.
The small man nodded once more. His companion holding the phone spoke a few words in Russian and then closed the cell.
"You recognized the sound of your grandson's voice, Mr. Serta? He sounds as if he is having a hard time at Harvard University. Now, it is totally up to you on how much of a hard time he has in the next few moments. If you refuse to answer our single question correctly, and on the first attempt, we will cut the young man's head off."
Serta looked horrified as the small man pursed his lips, as if the statement he had just made was just as distasteful to say as it was to hear.
The larger man, his hair cut short to this side of cruel, moved Serta into the bedroom and sat him at the foot of the large, ornate bed. The smaller man turned back to the bathroom and emerged a moment later with a glass of water. He offered it to Serta and then sat beside him. The old man shook as he raised the glass to his mouth. He hesitated, and then drank deeply. When he lowered the glass, the smaller man removed the water from his shaking hand. He handed the glass to the large short-haired man.
"There, you have sated your thirst, and I can see you have calmed to an acceptable degree. I believe we are ready to proceed."
The old man looked at the Slavic faces of the men looking at him. They were Russians, not others from the satellite states or provinces — they were Moscow-bred, just as his own father had been.
"Before I ask, I must warn you, so you don't waste time thinking about how we gained our fantastic knowledge. We have several people on our payroll who reside at Lloyd's of London. To be more precise, Lloyd's — North America, based in New York." The man smiled when he saw the face of the old man go slack. "Ah, I can see you have realized your mistake."
"I don't have —"
The small Russian held up his hand so fast that the old man flinched as he thought he was about to be struck. Then he watched as the man's eyes once more went to his friend, who remained standing over Serta. He nodded and once more removed the cell phone and then looked at the withered face of the old man.
"If he has to open that receiver, Mr. Serta, your grandson will have a brief moment of pain and then his head will be removed. Now, as I will state the question, your answer should already be formed in your mind. We know you have one half of the Twins of Peter the Great. Where is it? You became paranoid in your old age and requested an insurance quote on a diamond of rather amazing proportions, one pound eight ounces to be exact. That information was forwarded to our offices. So, we have dispensed with the details and now the question has been asked." The small man slowly removed a large caliber automatic from his coat and then reached into his pocket and removed a short stubby cylinder and started screwing the silencer onto the pistol.
Valery Serta lowered his head and then with a stronger than normal voice, started talking.
"Since 1919, my family has not had to use the diamond for anything other than collateral. It fed my father's ambition without losing the stone. Yes, over the years I knew that men such as you may track the Twin to my family, so I wanted insurance against that eventuality."
"After today, you will have no such worry. Now, answer the question."
"Floor safe in the shower stall — combination is 18-34-17."
"You have done well. You have followed our instructions, and thus you have saved the life of your grandson — a very noble thing. A thing that people with your family history did not have an abundance of in the early days of the Soviet Union." The small man stood and then placed the silencer up to Serta's temple.
"May I ask a question?" the taller and much more muscular man asked as he replaced the cell phone into his jacket.
"Yes, of course," came the polite answer from his partner.
"Mr. Serta, you wouldn't possibly know the whereabouts of a certain diary belonging to a former associate of your father's, would you?"
"How silly of me, I should have thought to ask myself."
Serta looked up and knew beyond any doubt that these men must be searching for the other missing Twin. Singly, the diamonds were worth a billion dollars on the open market, but placed together as a set, the Twins of Peter the Great would be priceless. He knew he would answer their question, as it would be the only triumph he would have in the few remaining minutes of his life.
"The other Twin was lost with many men, many good men according to my father, somewhere in the Canadian wilderness almost a hundred years ago." Serta said his piece and then closed his eyes.
"Ah, no more knowledge than we had before. But, there was no harm in asking. Now, there is a rumor of a diary with the description of where the diamond was lost. Do you have information on this missing journal?"
"I have never heard of such a thing. If there was a journal, it would have disappeared with the officer it belonged to."
"Ah, you see, you think you have lied well enough to deter us from the truth, but in reality you have told us everything. Whoever said it was an officer who wrote in a journal? I see your father was very observant those many years ago. He knew the officer commanding their small expedition wrote in a journal. Now, did your father happen to take that item when he betrayed his officer and stole the diamond?"
"I know of no journal."
"Ah, I see," the small ponytailed man said, and then nodded at the large one.
He turned and made his way to the bathroom. He looked around and then shook his head. It was the first time that he had ever heard of anyone building a safe in a shower stall. He stepped up to the rounded, clear-glass enclosure, pulled open the door by the gold-plated handle, and looked at the Tuscan tile. He could see no flaws or anything that would indicate a door. He knelt down and felt around the tile edges, still not discerning any area that might reveal a secret hiding place.
The Russian was just getting ready to stand when he saw what he was looking for. Most would have missed it, but the big man had the instincts of a cat. He reached out and allowed his fingers to play over the drain cover. On the outside it looked like a normal trap, but he had noticed there was no caulking around its edges. His fingers played over the stainless-steel surface, and then he pushed down, and then tried to turn it to the left. The cover didn't move. Then he tried to the right, still applying downward pressure, and smiled when the drain cover popped free of the tile.
"Now, this is ingenious," he said under his breath in Russian. The drain cover was actually the dial for the combination safe that was still buried in the tiled shower stall. He turned the facing of the cover and entered the correct numbers that had been covered up by the drain rim. The lights automatically dimmed in the bathroom and the Russian stood. His eyes widened when three floodlights embedded in the ceiling of the bathroom illuminated as the flooring, not in the shower itself, but in the center of the bathroom, behind him, started rising. The floodlights caught the first glimmer of the egg-shaped stone. Then, as the small enclosure rose, the lights struck Peter the Great's most prized possession — one of the Twins. The diamond had been cut in five thousand different places around the circumference of the egg. The effect was such that when the stone was illuminated, blue, pink, and green shafts of light speckled the white walls of the ornate bathroom.
The large Russian was stunned. With all the treasure they had gathered over the years, this was the most amazing sight he had ever beheld. Not standing on ceremony, he reached out and touched the large diamond egg. It was cold to the touch, and he smiled, wondering how something with such fire inside could be so cool. He grasped the egg and removed it from its glass cradle. He went back to the shower, turned the combination lock, and then depressed the drain cover. The cradle for the Twin slowly started its return to obscurity. The lighting from above dimmed and the regular bathroom light came back on.
"Well, are we that much richer, my friend?" the small man asked, his eyes never leaving the old man beside him.
The large man stepped out of the bathroom, and held up the one half of the Twins to show his partner. "Yes, we are, and always will be, two of the richest men in the world."
The old man buried his face in his hands and sobbed. The diamond had been in his family since it was taken by his father in a forest long ago. Now it was in the hands of men who would either sell it on the black market or cut it to pieces.
"Come now, you could never have thought to hold such a magnificent treasure as this without unscrupulous men coming after it, did you? Besides, old man, what we are really after makes this small diamond very insignificant. We are after much more than riches; we are after the future."
The old man looked up, not understanding. Then he realized he wasn't meant to as the small man stood and pulled the trigger.
As the two men started downstairs, the rain outside had started to dwindle to a heavy mist.
"Now that we have the one Twin, the other will be more of a challenge to find without the pages of the journal."
"If the cursed thing even exists; remember the KGB from the old days were expert liars, just as we were," the smaller man said as he buttoned his overcoat. "Our newest ally says he'll take care of that end of things. All we needed to do was seal this end of the trail so no one can figure out where this diamond was originally taken from. Now it's up to our new partner."
"I have to admit, he seems very resourceful."
"By the way," the small one asked as they closed the door and entered the private hallway, "did our man at the airport forward the video disc of our arrival to our friend?"
"Yes, I have done as he has instructed, but why would he want video of us coming into the U.S.?"
"I did not ask; he will inform us when we get in the air. I'm sure he has an excellent reason for it."
Again, the two Russians smiled. Their day had turned out to be full of sunshine, despite the storm that had passed through Seattle that morning.
EVENT GROUP COMPLEX NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, NEVADA
The head of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Senator Lyle P. Casals, knew the feeling of claustrophobia was all in his head. Although it was a fact that he found himself three thousand, two hundred feet underneath the sands of Nellis Air Force Base, he tried desperately to get that little fact to stop entering his mind as he walked alongside the Director of an agency of the federal government he had known nothing about twelve hours ago.
The director of Department 5656, known to the president of the United States and a few others as the Event Group, smiled as the senator from South Dakota wiped his brow with a handkerchief. Niles Compton could not figure out if the man was frightened about the treasures and archaeological finds he had just been shown, or fear that the entire cave system was about to fall on his head. Compton suspected the latter since the bespectacled man kept glancing up at the steel netting that held some of the rock strata in place.
The senator swallowed and then looked up at Director Compton. Niles removed his own glasses and smiled at the Ways and Means representative.
"Astounding is all I can say, Mr. Director. To think that all of this" — the small man gestured around the massive and curving hallways that held no less than one hundred of the largest steel vaults in the complex — "has been kept secret for over a hundred years is completely amazing to me."
Excerpted from Primeval by David Lynn Golemon. Copyright © 2010 David L. Golemon. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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