Eminent archeologist Dr. Emeryk Quintillus has unearthed the burial chamber of Cleopatra. But this tomb raider’s obsession with the Queen of the Nile has nothing to do with preserving history. Stealing sacred and priceless relics, he murders his expedition crew, and flees—escaping the quake that swallows the site beneath the desert sands . . .
Young widow Adeline Ogilvy has accepted employment at the mansion of Dr. Quintillus, transcribing the late professor’s memoirs. Within the pages of his journals, she discovers the ravings of a madman convinced he possessed the ability to reincarnate Cleopatra. Within the walls of his home, she is assailed by unexplained phenomena: strange sounds, shadowy figures, and apparitions of hieroglyphics.
Something pursued Dr. Quintillus from Egypt. Something dark, something hungry. Something tied to the fate and future of Adeline Ogilvy . . .
WRATH OF THE ANCIENTS
Praise for Catherine Cavendish’s Wrath of the Ancients
“Cavendish has constructed such an elaborate plot—combined with painstaking research into Egyptian mythology—that the fantastical events taking place seem to literally ‘come alive’ on the pages before you.”
“Cavendish offers up an atmospheric gothic horror tale that effortlessly blends together history and the supernatural to create an unsettling horror story that will appeal to almost any horror fan.”
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Holland Park, London
On a chilly January day, with a stiff breeze blowing around her, Adeline Ogilvy stood in front of the black door to the offices of the Sinclair Agency and smoothed down her straight navy blue skirt. She removed the glove on her right hand and checked below her smart new hat for any stray hairs. Finding none, she examined her fingers. Nails short, of course. How any woman could type with long nails had always been a mystery to Adeline. Shame about the little red mark where she had caught her finger under one of the typewriter keys. It would soon heal, but it would have to happen when she was being considered for a new, longer-term position. In Vienna, too.
Adeline had always dreamed of visiting the elegant Austrian capital ever since her Viennese grandfather used to regale her with tales of his childhood there. She had been a fascinated little girl, sitting cross-legged on the rug in front of the blazing log fire in his tiny cottage. To please him, she always called her grandfather "Opa" in the Austrian way.
Opa told her about the sad old Emperor who had lost his son and heir when Crown Prince Rudolf committed suicide in 1889. Later, when she was in her teens, Opa had tears in his eyes when she went to visit him one day. When she asked him why, he said it was because he had learned that the beautiful Empress Elisabeth had been stabbed and killed by a crazed assassin. "Who will look after the poor Emperor now?" he asked, his accent more pronounced than usual.
Opa had been dead these past ten years, but Adeline had always hoped that one day she would see his beloved Vienna. If this appointment went well, she would have the chance to not only visit but live there, for three months. Maybe she would even get to see the Emperor taking his daily constitutional in the Schlosspark, accompanied by his special friend, Frau Schratt. Opa had never mentioned her, of course.
Adeline replaced her glove and reached up to the polished brass door knocker. She gave it two smart raps and a couple of minutes later, a smiling young woman in a maid's white cap and apron over a black dress, looked enquiringly at her.
"I am Mrs. Ogilvy. I have an appointment with Miss Sinclair."
"Very good, madam. If you would like to come inside."
The hall smelled of lavender and beeswax, and the comforting aroma continued into the office. At her arrival, the proprietor — Miss Emily Sinclair — stood up from behind her oak desk.
"Ah, Mrs. Ogilvy, how nice to see you again. You are keeping well, I trust?"
"Very well, thank you," Adeline replied.
Miss Sinclair motioned her to sit on a leather-upholstered chair opposite her and sat back down. She was a woman Adeline gauged to be maybe twenty years older than herself, making her around fifty-five. Her iron-gray hair was neatly caught up in a smart, easily managed bun and she wore pince-nez on a gold-colored chain around her neck. Whenever she needed to read anything, as she did now, she would perch the pince-nez on the end of her nose.
Miss Sinclair raised her eyes from the papers she had been studying and let the pince-nez drop around her neck. She smiled, transforming her normally pinched look. "Thank you for coming to see me so promptly, Mrs. Ogilvy. I mentioned in my letter, this is a most unusual position and I wouldn't normally offer it to a married woman, but you are simply the only person I have who fits the stipulations of the client."
Adeline clasped her hands in her lap, feeling her wedding ring through the leather of her gloves. She took a deep breath. "I am actually a widow, Miss Sinclair. My husband was killed two years ago in a road accident." She didn't go into detail about the runaway dray horse that had trampled James to death.
Miss Sinclair switched off her smile. "Oh dear, I am most dreadfully sorry, I had no idea."
Adeline smiled. "No need to apologize. I haven't been working for you very long, and the subject has never come up."
Miss Sinclair visibly relaxed and the smile returned. Back to business. "You are aware, the position necessitates that you live in Vienna for a period of not less than three months, starting as soon as possible. I'm afraid you will find it most awfully cold there in January."
"I'm sure I shall survive. I'll make certain to take plenty of warm clothing."
Miss Sinclair smiled. "That's the ticket. You will be living in the house of the late Dr. Emeryk Quintillus. It is his commission that you will undertake, as the executors of his considerable estate have instigated this contract. By all accounts Dr. Quintillus was a most unusual man. No one even appears to know precisely where he came from originally." She perched the pince-nez on her nose and glanced back down at her notes. "He spoke a number of languages fluently — including English and German, both of which he managed with no trace of an accent, although it's likely he came from neither country. Nor was he born in Austria. He also spoke Arabic, Classical Greek ... Oh, and Hungarian, so maybe he came from there." She shrugged. Her clear, hazel eyes met Adeline's blue ones. "Anyway, he was an eminent historian and archaeologist, specializing in Egyptology. I understand he made some significant finds over the years." She peered down at the sheets of paper in front of her. "Quite a number of years actually. More than you might think from his photograph, which was taken a few months before he died. In 1910."
Miss Sinclair handed over a sepia photograph.
Adeline took it from her and inhaled a sharp breath. "Oh my. He certainly had an individual style, didn't he?" The bearded face peered at her. The hooded eyes seemed to be guarding some secret. He was dressed in flamboyant style with a long dark coat, stretching down below his knees, a waistcoat that looked like it might be made of velvet, a white shirt with an elaborate dark cravat, and hair worn unfashionably long that extended way past his shoulders. On his head, a taller-than-usual top hat, reminiscent of the trademark stovepipe version worn by Abraham Lincoln, added to his eccentricity. The slightest of smiles played around his lips, adding to the impression of someone hiding something. There was something cruel about the set of those lips. Ruthless. This would not be a man you would willingly antagonize.
Adeline shivered and handed back the photograph.
Miss Sinclair looked at it again. Judging by the downturn of her lips, Adeline didn't think she approved of Dr. Quintillus overmuch.
"I would have said this man was no more than say, forty," Miss Sinclair said. "Yet apparently he supplied the museum in Berlin with some Egyptian artifacts back in the 1870s, so he must have been in his ... Gracious, he must have been over sixty at least, maybe even older when this was taken."
Adeline shook her head. "Surely not." The man in that picture had certainly managed to preserve his youthful appearance. His face showed barely a wrinkle, but his eyes seemed to hide so many secrets. Secrets Adeline didn't wish to even guess at — cruelty to match his lips, and a darkness of spirit. She suppressed another shudder.
Miss Sinclair sighed. "Ah well, the poor man is dead and buried now. I believe he had no relatives, no one knew exactly how old he was, or really anything about him, so his gravestone, wherever that is, must be pretty empty."
Although curious to know more about this extraordinary man, Adeline was even more concerned to learn about the job she would undertake. "What will I be doing for him?"
"Apparently, Dr. Quintillus wrote his memoirs not long before he died. In English, thankfully. He specified that he wanted them to be typed up by a British woman who would live in his house and be looked after by his remaining servants. He made arrangements for the successful candidate to be quite generously rewarded. I submitted your references to his executors — a legal firm in Kensington — and they responded positively and promptly. They were particularly impressed by the work you did for Professor Jakob Mayer in the Department of History at London University. They felt this, plus your other credentials, provided a near perfect match to their late client's requirements. In short, Mrs. Ogilvy, the job is yours if you would like it. They merely requested that you should make all haste to sort out your affairs here and travel to Vienna."
Adeline resisted the urge to jump up and throw her arms around Miss Sinclair. With great effort, she controlled the excitement corkscrewing up her body. "I shall be delighted to accept their kind offer," she said.
Once again she was treated to Miss Sinclair's brilliant smile. "Excellent. I can tell you that they said you were by far the best qualified candidate."
"That is most gratifying," Adeline said, still fighting hard to keep her joy under control.
"Now to the practicalities." Miss Sinclair once again planted her pince-nez on her nose and flicked over a couple of sheets of paper. "They will pay all necessary travel and lodging costs for the journey. You will proceed by ferry across the Channel and then by train to Vienna. The house is in an area called Hietzing which is, so I understand, a rather upper class district."
Adeline smiled. The news kept getting better. "I know of Hietzing. My grandfather used to work in the SchÃnbrunn Palace, which is around there. He told me of his walks on his days off and all the fancy ladies and gentlemen he used to see."
"Well, it sounds as if you'll feel right at home." Miss Sinclair handed her a card, on which the address had been written in neat handwriting.
A few minutes later, Adeline Ogilvy received some puzzled looks from passersby when she half-skipped down the road, a silly grin on her face. For the first time in over two years, she felt the exhilaration of true happiness.
Adeline pulled the collar of her woolen coat closer around her neck in a futile effort to keep out the biting wind of a freezing January day. Opa had been right about the fearsome Vienna winters. London had been cold, but this ...
Her boots crunched snow packed on ice as she made her labored way from the tram stop to the house where she would spend the next three months. The elegant mansions with their Biedermeyer architecture seemed majestic and grand after her humble terraced house in Wimbledon. The heavy, cloud- covered skies were darkening. She rested her small suitcase on the step and rang the bell of the impressive white-painted house. A moment of panic. Should she have gone to the tradesmen's entrance, wherever that was? The Viennese were such sticklers for propriety, and their codes of social etiquette were even more stringent and proscribed than those she had been used to at home. Too late now, though. She heard the scrape of the lock. She would have to brazen it out, if necessary.
A tall, thin man, probably in his sixties, with a hooked nose and sunken cheeks, stood in the entrance. Judging by his immaculate black tailcoat, waistcoat, and high, starched collar, he was the butler. Butters. Unusual name. Miss Sinclair had told her he was British.
He inclined his head but otherwise remained expressionless.
Adeline cleared her throat and wished her nose wasn't bright red. She couldn't see it, but it would be in this weather. She hesitated. Should she introduce herself in German or in English? After all, they were in Austria. "Guten Tag, mein Name ist Frau Ogilvy —"
"Yes, madam, we are expecting you," the butler said in clipped English. He took her suitcase from her and stepped back to let her in.
"Thank you." Adeline stepped into the warm hall, glad to be out of the cold.
"Your coat and hat, madam."
Adeline handed the garments to the butler. Still no change in his expression. Did the man ever smile?
A door to the side of the entrance opened and a diminutive maid with an earnest expression and a slightly askew white cap took the garments from the butler. She immediately hung them on the hall stand and scurried back to wherever she'd come from.
"You're Mr. Butters, I believe?" Adeline told herself to stop being so in awe of this man who was in no way her social superior either in London or in Vienna.
"Just Butters, madam. Please, come this way."
Adeline glanced around her, taking in her surroundings. The hall was an almost perfect square, with a wide sweeping staircase, black and white tiled floor and pictures of rural landscapes adorning the walls. In the center stood a highly polished mahogany table on which an enormous Chinese vase took pride of place.
"Ming dynasty," Butters said. "The late Dr. Quintillus liked to collect fine pieces on his explorations."
He opened a tall, dark wooden door and Adeline entered a library the size and scope of which she had never seen before. "Oh, my goodness. This is magnificent."
At last, a flicker of a smile turned up the corner of Butters's lips. The high- ceilinged room was lined with rows of leather-bound books. A spiral, wrought-iron staircase led to the upper levels and a set of library steps enabled the less accessible shelves to be reached in safety and comfort. High above, a sumptuous Egyptian scene adorned the white ceiling. A great queen seated in a golden barge.
Adeline craned her neck to take in its beauty.
"The arrival of Cleopatra at Tarsus," Butters said. "A little fanciful perhaps, but the master liked it well enough. He commissioned it to be painted by a local artist, Herr Gustav Klimt."
"I am afraid I haven't come across him. My knowledge of art is rather limited." Adeline wished she hadn't spoken so freely. The butler's expression had returned to its stony norm. Clearly, now she had arrived in Vienna, she had better start catching up with current developments in art and culture, and this Herr Klimt seemed an excellent place to start.
She followed Butters over to an antique partner desk on which she recognized the major tool of her trade. Her portable, if cumbersome, typewriter.
"I'm so glad that arrived safely. I was a little concerned."
"It was delivered with your trunk yesterday, madam. The maid has hung your clothes in your room and she will escort you there in a few minutes, in order that you might rest after your tiring journey."
"Thank you, Butters." A rest would be welcome. After two days' rail travel, sleep in a comfortable bed that didn't keep rocking would provide a welcome change.
"Dinner will be served for you in here at seven p.m. prompt. You will take breakfast in here at eight thirty every morning, and commence work at nine, except weekends, when you will be free to pursue your own interests. The late master's instructions were most explicit on the subject, even down to the food you should eat. He was a most particular man. Every morning, I shall set out your work for the day and collect your finished pages at five o'clock. I trust that is all clear."
Adeline stared at him. "Perfectly." Opa had told her the Viennese liked their formal routines. It appeared this household ran in keeping with its city of residence. She supposed the free weekends were a nod at their other famous love — that of GemÃ1/4tlichkeit, the untranslatable word that encompassed joy, pleasure, contentment, and happiness. No doubt she would get used to it. At least there could be no room for not understanding what was expected of her.
Butters inclined his head a fraction. "Very well, madam. I shall tell Magda to come to you. She is Hungarian but speaks enough English for you to understand each other."
Adeline knew her German was perfectly adequate, if a little rusty, and heavy on the English accent. "Does she speak German?"
"Of course, madam."
"Then I am sure we shall understand each other perfectly."
Had her sarcasm been lost on him? She doubted it. Since she started this line of work after James died, she had endured a steady stream of officious butlers.
After Butters left, Adeline wandered over to the shelves behind the desk. With relief, she noticed that many of the titles were in English. She might speak and read German, but for her leisure time, it would be more relaxing to read books in her native language. The library seemed to have some order in it. She found a section on poetry and drama. Milton rubbed shoulders with Dryden. Farther along, Shakespeare nudged Marlowe. Maybe somewhere, she would find some lighter bedtime reading.
A voice startled her. She spun on her heel.
"Madam. Please, if you like to come."
"Danke, Magda. Aber wir kÃnnen deutsch zusammen sprechen."
A look of relief spread over the young girl's face. Magda was clearly relieved she would be able to conduct their conversations in German rather than in a language she undoubtedly — at best — struggled with. There was the added bonus for Adeline that she could show that self-satisfied butler that his condescending habit of only speaking English to her, was entirely unnecessary. Adeline smiled to herself. Butlers!
Excerpted from "Wrath of the Ancients"
Copyright © 2017 Catherine Cavendish.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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