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Unseen Forces: Sky Wilder, #1

Unseen Forces: Sky Wilder, #1

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Unseen Forces: Sky Wilder, #1

Length:
390 pages
5 hours
Released:
Jun 21, 2016
ISBN:
9780997678802
Format:
Book

Description

Maverick archeologist Dr. Sky Wilder has never been able to prove any of his outside-the-box fringe theories... until now. When he breaks what had been an impenetrable code, he unearths a long-buried Egyptian stone tablet in Arizona’s Red Rock country. Whoever possesses all three hidden tablets holds the key to locate an ancient alchemical text containing a formula for physical immortality. The bodies pile up as Wilder realizes he’s been set-up as a pawn, caught between opposing covert agencies and secret brotherhoods that have been warring for centuries.


 

Released:
Jun 21, 2016
ISBN:
9780997678802
Format:
Book

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Unseen Forces - ED KOVACS

PRAISE FOR ED KOVACS

For Locked Down :

A trip to Hong Kong with an author who knows where the bodies are buried. – JAKE NEEDHAM, USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR

"The plot is compelling, and fans of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series will enjoy this. Locked Down is a brilliant techno-thriller teeming with suspense. In all, a superb start to a series that so far nails it on every major level. –SP REVIEWS

Locked Down is a welcome newcomer to the thriller genre. The feisty female protagonist reminded me of Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson’s novels. A victim of gross injustice, she fights back using computers and whatever else is handy in order to survive. A riveting read.DEAN BARRETT, AWARED WINNING NOVELIST AND AUTHOR OF MURDER IN CHINA RED

FOR Good Junk:

The scenes of New Orleans are rich and real. Kovacs hopeless, elegiac vision of the city is touching, and his quick studies of hidden landmarks like the outré bar in the French Quarter that calls itself Pravda, and Pampy’s, a purveyor of soul food to politicians, are written with true affection and terrific humor. –THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

Powerful prose that evokes a city still struggling to recover its infrastructure and identity elevates this well beyond most other contemporary PI novels.PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY, BOXED, STARRED REVIEW

FOR Storm Damage:

"A sleeper here, a beautiful spin on hard-boiled fiction that respects the conventions—starting with the knockout female client with an agenda—rather than mocking or aping them. The hero is damaged goods, the politicos are corrupt, other guys you can’t figure out at all, and it’s all done with style and energy."— BOOKLIST

Kovacs has written a fast-paced, gritty novel in which no one is to be trusted and nothing is as it seems. His noir take on the thriller will hook readers.ASSOCIATED PRESS

Kovacs is a vivid addition to the thriller genre.STEVE BERRY, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR

Kovacs writes like a master. —GAYLE LYNDS, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR

"Ed Kovacs comes out of the gate with a bang. Storm Damage is ultra fast-paced, moving, and nicely devious. Highly recommended."—JONATHAN MABERRY, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR

FOR The Russian Bride:

This is a thriller packed so full of action, it leaves readers breathless. Kovacs does an incredible job at being technically accurate and easy to understand, so readers of all levels are engaged throughout. A must-read for fans of fast-paced stories that don’t let you go till the very end.RT BOOK REVIEWS

Brisk, easy-to-read thrillerPUBLISHER’S WEEKLY

Quick, entertaining action.KIRKUS REVIEWS

FOR Burnt Black:

The vibrant description of occult doings mixes well with the movements of the earthbound characters, making this Cliff and Honey’s best outing to date. —KIRKUS REVIEWS

This series has a definite southern noir feel, and its rough around the edges locale will be catnip to some readers, like myself. The book has more twists and turns than the streets and back alleys of New Orleans...—CRIMINAL ELEMENT

FOR Unseen Forces:

Indiana Jones on steroids.COL. JOHN ALEXANDER, AUTHOR OF FUTURE WAR

A spellbinding thriller that will keep you riveted well past midnight.THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

"A real page-turner rivaling The Da Vinci Code."—PHENOMENA MAGAZINE

A taut, suspenseful story that keeps the reader riveted until the very end.MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

Will keep you up nights with anticipation.RANDALL FITZGERALD, AUTHOR OF COSMIC TEST TUBE

Terrific debut novel that deserves to be on the bestseller lists.THE DAILY GRAIL

I couldn’t wait to get back to it after I put it down. Kovacs covers some serious philosophical questions within the framework of a potboiler.PAUL SMITH, AUTHOR OF READING THE ENEMY'S MIND

TO RECEIVE UPDATES about new releases and other events, to get bonus and contest offers, and to stay informed about Ed’s latest globe-trotting exploits, please visit his website at www.edkovacs.com and subscribe to his newsletter.

Reviews are important to both authors and readers alike. Please consider leaving an honest review of Ed’s books at your favorite online bookseller.

BOOKS BY ED KOVACS

Unseen Forces

Storm Damage

Good Junk

Burnt Black

The Russian Bride

Locked Down

DEDICATION

For Callan Ramses, the Little Pharaoh;

What a beautiful accident

And for the Bad Lieutenant;

A true unseen force

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thanks to Captain Dale Dye, USMC (Ret.), who encouraged me so many years ago to sit in the gunners seat of the novelist and face the target. I'm deeply indebted to the late Dawson Hayward who gifted me with the keys to unlock many secrets of the American Southwest. His life remains a beacon, a navigational fix to get me back on the path.

In Thailand, my gratitude extends to Pronpimol Na Lampang in Chiang Rai, and to others in border areas who wish to remain unnamed. General Mamdough Ferghani, Egyptian Army (Ret.), was a font of knowledge during my research in Cairo.

Heartfelt gratitude to Aleta Gibbs, Maggie Chan, Trish and Ken Loar, and Mu Li. Major Paul Smith, U.S. Army (Ret.), helped set some facts straight and offered erudite counsel. Much gratitude to R.F. Truman; old friends are precious indeed. David Tseklenis is a visionary with intellect, style, sophistication and wit. I am blessed to have such a friend and offer thanks for his unwavering support.

Much love and thanks to Neungreuthai Chanphonsean, Mileena Amika, and Callan Ramses, who keep me honest and shower me with unconditional love.

Lastly, this book would not exist were it not for the phenomenal support of Lisa Chan.

AUTHOR’S NOTE

It is published fact that the C.I.A. began funding psi research at Stanford Research Institute, Menlo Park, California, in 1972. The initial research eventually evolved into a series of secret U.S. military units that trained and tasked remote viewers—psychic spies—in offices at Ft. Meade, Maryland.

The psychic spy units, operating under such names as Grill Frame, Sun Streak, and Star Gate, had supporters in some of the highest positions of the U.S. government.

And thanks in advance to my readers for understanding that while most locations in this book are real and worth a visit, others are purely fictional.

EPIGRAPH

1770 , Sir William Pitt , speaking to the House of Lords: There is something behind the throne greater than the King himself.

1884, BENJAMIN DISRAELI: The world is governed by very different personages from what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes.

1933, FRANKLIN DELANO Roosevelt, in a letter to a friend: The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the large centers has owned government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson.

1966, H.C. RANDALL-STEVENS: Today, those who rule are usurpers, born through a line of usurpers. When this started to happen long ago, the Book of Knowledge was closed and the Divine Secrets were lost.

PROLOGUE

The Netherlands, 1943

The sharp ringing of the hand crank phone cracked the air in Piet Ronhaar’s study like an explosion. Piet spilled red table wine all over his daughter Arabella’s astrology chart as he reached for the heavy black Bakelite receiver. The insistent clanging sounded more like an alarm than a phone and the ashen look on Piet’s face suggested it was just that. Connected by buried wire to an identical hand crank phone at a farm nine kilometers away, the phone rang once a year on the same day at the same time as a test.

This was not that day, not that time.

That phone never rings. Who’s calling, Papa? asked six year-old Arabella as she played with old wooden dolls on the floor near her father’s desk. She preferred being near her father to playing with her sisters or helping Mama with chores.

Piet ignored his youngest daughter, ignored the growing puddle of wine, and picked up the phone breathlessly. He listened silently for several seconds then resolutely nodded his head. It shall be done, he said as calmly as he could. He slowly replaced the receiver.

When Holland was falling to the Germans, Piet had quickly relinquished the visibility and cachet of a professorship in cosmopolitan Amsterdam for the inconspicuous rural life of a simple farmer. He thought it would help keep safe the ancient secret he protected. At first, Hitler had left Freemasonry and other secret European fraternities like his alone. Recent whispers, however, suggested that policy had radically changed.

Forcing himself to remain focused and calm, forty year-old Piet took several seconds to work out a plan in his mind. He quickly scribbled a few words on a piece of paper and folded it in half. He moved to Arabella and easily lifted her to her feet with his arms made powerful from farm labor.

What shall be done, Papa? she asked, as her thin blonde hair fell across pale green eyes. That telephone never rings. Who were you talking to?

Never mind that, he said, brushing back her hair as fine as an angel's. Where are Mama and your sisters?

Outside hanging the laundry.

My little princess Arabella, Piet said, trying not to sound panicked, I’m giving you a very special present. Piet unhooked his necklace, heavy with a sterling silver fish pendant, and draped it around his small daughter. You must wear my favorite necklace until you see me again later. We are both Pisces, after all, the sign of the fish.

Are you going somewhere, Papa?

If any of Papa’s friends ever ask you about today, show them this pendant. And you must tell them about my favorite saying. Can you remember that, my sweet?

Yes. Your favorite saying is Matthew twenty, verse sixteen. But what about my star chart? And Kaatje’s and Anke’s?

"You will have it, my darling. But you must remember what I just told you. You must not speak to Germans, tell only Papa’s friends about the pendant and my favorite saying. And tell them I love my three daughters. My three daughters! Can you do that for me, can you remember?"

Of course, Papa!

Very good, my princess. Now run to Mama, right now, and give her this paper. Run, please, and there will be extra chocolate tonight!

With visions of a confectionery reward, Arabella shot out the door in a dither with the note in her hand. Piet hurried over to the fake stone in his office wall. He would have only minutes. Looking out through a window, he caught a glimpse of his lovely thirty-four year-old wife Lina, anguished and terrified, kick-start their old motorcycle, and with their three girls hanging on, power the vehicle over a hillock and disappear. He feared he would never see them again.

SINCE HIS GRANDFATHER reigned as one of the most powerful industrialists in the Fatherland, Carl Rockow already held the rank of full colonel at the age of twenty-six. A childhood avocation for black magic led him naturally to the Ahnenerbe Verein, the SS Occult Bureau. He relished putting on the black uniform with death's head insignia and fed on the fear his authority instilled in others.

Rockow felt relieved Hitler had finally come to his senses and ordered a crackdown on all secret societies that weren’t satanic. Almost immediately, a treasure trove of ritual objects had fallen into the hands of the Occult Bureau. Since the SS themselves worshiped the devil, only fellow Satanists would be left alone, meaning the secret society Rockow belonged to, the SW, Schwarze Wahrheit, or Black Truth, had nothing to fear.

A morning chill gripped the clear air but Col. Rockow insisted on riding with the top down on his staff car in order to watch for aerial dogfights as he cruised through the Dutch countryside with his driver and a captain.

Today’s my lucky day, Axel, said Rockow, sweeping the sky with Zeiss binoculars. Our ME-109’s are just taking on a squadron of American fighter-bombers, it would seem.

Those new American planes are very fast and heavily armed.

Rockow put down the binoculars and stared coldly at his captain. We are Germans. We are destined to win.

Yes, Herr Colonel. Sir, we have arrived at the mason’s farmhouse.

So soon. Pity. I wanted to see the show, said Col. Rockow, glancing skyward as the car rolled to a stop at Piet Ronhaar’s farmhouse, followed by two troop trucks carrying a full platoon of SS storm troopers. Oh well, let’s go put on our own show.

PIET RONHAAR SAT TIED to a chair in his office. His right eye was swollen shut, and sticky, coagulating blood covered his lips and chin. His shirt had been ripped off, and bruises, welts, and cuts covered his battered torso. Blood dripped from Ronhaar's right hand where two fingers were now missing; the red liquid splattered to the floor with the slow beat of a funeral dirge.

Col. Rockow reclined at Piet's desk sipping a glass of wine as he held a document up to the light. It’s just a matter of time before we find your wife and daughters, Herr Ronhaar, you know that. The false stone lay open on the desk.

Piet struggled to control his breathing. You have what you’ve come looking for. I was told to hide that document and I did.

"Yes, your fellow lodge member said you had the document. The uncoded document. This document, hidden in your stone wall, is in code. I don’t think he would lie to us, especially since I was inserting a knife into his son’s eye socket at the time."

Piet lowered his eyes. He had erred badly. It had only taken him two minutes to encode the coordinates before the Germans had arrived. The original document he burned in his fireplace. They would never break the one-time pad code he'd created, that was impossible... unless they tortured it out of him. That now loomed as a very real possibility.

A man came two days ago. He was of a degree higher than me but I did not know him. It was he who encoded the document.

Rockow chuckled. You’re a poor liar, Herr Ronhaar. The young colonel stood casually and stretched like a cat, yawning, then slowly withdrew a ceremonial death's head dagger from a sheath on his belt. He crossed to Piet and drew the blade over the skin of the Dutchman’s exposed forearms, pressing lightly enough to draw blood but not cutting deeply as he carved the initials SS into the flesh.

Sweat dripped from Piet’s face as he waited for the real pain to begin.

Herr Ronhaar, you will give me the code key now, or later. Do it now and you won’t suffer.

Piet remained silent. He held no hope for survival, but every second he could prolong the encounter would put more distance between his family and these butchers.

Rockow turned to the captain. Find me some food, Axel. You know how blood makes me hungry. I’m going to the car to get my tools. A Japanese military attaché in Berlin recently gave me a set of sharpened teak chopsticks. We'll see how they fit under Herr Ronhaar's fingernails.

Piet's office had its own entrance, and the colonel used it as he strode outside and traversed a path toward his staff car. He hurried the last few meters and was reaching for his binoculars to get a better look at the dogfight overhead when an approaching roar stopped him in his tracks.

An American P-38, smoke pouring from both engines, dropped like a stone from the sky. Rockow felt a flash of pride, then fear. He could see the blood-spattered cockpit with his naked eye as the plane, still carrying its full load of two 1600 pound bombs, veered straight toward the farmhouse. Rockow broke into a dead run for a few seconds, then the world shifted into slow motion as the concussion blew him almost three meters down the drive.

He awoke sometime later to the cold realization that all of his troops were dead and the farmhouse had been obliterated. Deep in shock beyond physical pain, he discovered he had been castrated by a piece of the American plane. He felt grateful for the child he already had, checked his pocket to make sure the code remained secure, and then passed out.

CHAPTER 1

The First Lady maintained a well-deserved reputation for procrastination. Hence, her limousine took a secret underground tunnel to the Mayflower Hotel from the White House to cut many minutes off the above-ground traffic-choked route. Tucked away in an obscure corner on the hotel’s second floor, Michel’s salon always discretely accommodated their VIP client.

Today’s event in the main ballroom was a fund-raising benefit for the UNHCR, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, an organization upon whose board she sat and whose mission cleaved near and dear to her heart. This year was the fiftieth anniversary of the organization, which necessitated the First Lady’s attendance at a series of galas hosted by field offices around the world. The travel could be tiring but the attendant publicity and goodwill helped immensely with fund raising.

The new pedicurist at Michel’s carefully applied a rose pink colored polish. An old lady color, she thought. Dao, a sweet-looking nineteen year-old Laotian girl had taken her first breath in the District, but her family had endured horrific conditions and squalid refugee camps in order to escape the yoke of the Laos government's ongoing repression of the hill tribe people called Hmong.

Dao's parents had been lucky and were provided a life of freedom in America. Her parents were the kind of people UNHCR worked hard to help: ordinary people who fled their homes to escape war, persecution or human rights abuse. Dao’s folks had, in fact, received food, shelter and other essentials directly as a result of UNHCR programs, funded in part by the kind of event taking place in the hotel today.

But Dao couldn’t relate to the war or the suffering and sacrifice her family had experienced. She could barely tolerate sharing the same roof with them, and lived for cocaine- and ecstasy-fueled weekend rave parties and lots of sex with her Vietnamese boyfriend, a gang member who had a nice car and money. He paid for her tattoos and piercing and frequently gave her twenty-two karat gold jewelry, like the bracelets she now wore and the bellybutton stud and the white-gold nipple rings, all hidden by her work frock.

Dao loved money, the more the better, which is why she carefully collected pieces of the First Lady’s toenails and some tufts of her hair which had fallen to the floor and, unseen by the bored Secret Service agents, tucked them into a coin-size zip-lock bag.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY book belongs in the fiction section? Since when is archeology fiction? I’m telling you the information I stole, I mean acquired, in Florence is absolutely genuine.

The whitish-blue glow of moonlight reflecting off of polished aluminum cast an etheric glow on Dr. Sky Wilder’s rugged features as he exhaled smoke from a Dominican cigar and gazed at the pristinely clear desert sky. He sat up on the thick wing, his back propped against the fuselage of a fully restored WWII-era B-25J bomber. Files, papers, and books lay haphazardly scattered around him, unencumbered by any breeze on the exquisitely still night. A thermos of tea and a bottle of Argentinean Malbec sat between the two men.

Your book is full of conspiracies, witchcraft, magic spells. I mean, come on Sky, get real. You’ve written six books now, and in all of them you postulate these fantastic theories, a completely ‘outside’ look at events from the past. Doesn’t it bother you that you’ve never been able to prove any of your claims and that some of your peers call you a kook behind your back?

Kook? Well I’ve never come up with concrete proof that can’t be denied, if that’s what you mean. But some of my theories are just as valid as those embraced by the establishment, and you know it. There’s a difference between proof, and acceptance. I could present proof tomorrow but that doesn’t mean the mainstream will accept it.

Sky ran fingers through his thick, side-parted, short brown hair. His straight nose pointed down to lips that were a bit too thin. The jaw sat firm and the chin strong but not dominant. Slight creases had developed from about an inch below his eyes and streaked down to the jaw line, adding depth of character. Being an avid outdoorsman had seasoned his natural good looks, and his slender 5'11" build had very little body fat.

His somewhat prominent blonde-and brown-haired eyebrows, hooding bright green-blue eyes, remained his finest features. If he wore a blue shirt his irises were sky blue. A green shirt made them look aqua. Tonight his eyes looked a bit tired as he once again found himself trying to defend a renegade theory to his oldest friend.

You’ve marginalized yourself, man. Stick to aviation archeology, locating these old crashed World War Two planes, then restoring and flying them. You’re good at that. But Leonard Wolley or Howard Carter, you’re not. Maybe, Mister Sky, you should leave the heavy lifting to pros like me, teased Professor Frank Bacavi.

A towering 6’5" and 280 pounds of muscle, Frank was a full-blooded Navajo. His thick, long nose supported $300 Dolce and Gabbana spectacles and his coal black hair, coarse as steel wool, spiked stylishly. He’d been best friends with Sky Wilder since their elementary school days in Humbolt, Arizona. The men had gotten PhDs in anthropology together at Arizona State.

That’s Doctor Sky, if you please, Tonto.

Did I mention, General Custer, that you’re about due for a haircut?

Where did I lose you, exactly? said Sky, freshening his antique George V silver goblet with more wine.

I can go along with the idea that maybe this sorcerer Hui and a couple of royal ladies escaped Egypt after their coup against Ramses the Third failed. Your evidence is fairly compelling though not incontrovertible. But this Book of Curses—

Book of Spells, corrected Sky.

Whatever. This book supposedly contains an elixir for physical immortality. Common sense alone tells us such a thing couldn’t work. Frank went to work filling his favorite pipe, a 1947 Castello Mi Reserva half-bent carved briar bulldog. But forget common sense and look at the facts, said Frank, sounding like a lawyer laying out his case. "The Egyptians were consumed with the notion of an afterlife. They expended vast amounts of wealth, labor, and material on providing for themselves after death; servants, riches, tools, and comfort items were stashed in their elaborate tombs. Then consider the rituals, the embalming and mummification... all of that suggests they didn’t have any such potion that would allow them to live forever in their original physical body."

But no one outside the priesthood could interpret their sacred books, countered Sky. "That formula was one of their most closely guarded treasures, written in arcane characters, interspersed with meaningless hieroglyphics, kept in the most secure part of an unknown temple, hidden by their highest priests. Until Hui stole it, that is. I don’t for a second believe that physical immortality is possible, but history tells us that plenty of people have believed exactly that, and have gone to great lengths in their attempts to achieve it. Don’t forget, the Book of Spells alone is a priceless artifact, whether any of the spells work or not."

Frank shrugged. What other kind of spells does this book supposedly have? he asked as he used a Vektor torch lighter to ignite the aromatic mixture of pipe tobacco.

"The Bible and other religious books tell us that Egyptian sorcerers could heal the sick, cast out evil spirits, control the wind and rain, the rivers and the sea. They could project their souls into animals or other creatures, turn wax figures into living things that would do their bidding, and of course, bring the dead back to life. I mean, Moses performed some pretty potent magic, just read Exodus! And Moses wasn’t talked about only in the Bible. Some Greco-Egyptian papyri refer to his book of spells."

Frank exhaled a long stream of spice-scented smoke. Yes, there are such references, he admitted, but there’s no evidence that this Hui person took the book with him when he fled to—

There’s no evidence that he didn’t, interrupted Sky. Hui’s conspiracy to overthrow the Pharaoh is well-documented historical fact, including the names of the thirty or so co-conspirators who were executed. Don’t you think the Egyptians would have noted the fact that they recovered one of their most sacred books?

Frank exhaled, more than a little audibly. "Here’s where I really have trouble, amigo. Let’s say Hui escaped with the book to Tyre, in what is now southern Lebanon. Okay. That was, what? Twelve hundred BC, or, about thirty-two hundred years ago. Your theory that the secret location of the Book of Spells has been protected over the millennia by generations of some secret society is... let me be kind and call it far-fetched."

Frank, far-fetched is where I live. We’re sitting on this plane right now because of my far-fetched ideas of where to look for it and how it could be recovered from the polar ice.

Sky had earned the right to operate outside-the-box. He’d endured extreme hardship and ridicule by, first, locating the old bomber where it had crash-landed in 1945 and, then, by repairing it on site and flying it off an ice shelf in Greenland. The experts had all said it couldn’t be done, that he was either insane or reckless to try it. Or both. When he succeeded, he not only made international headlines, but became an instant legend amongst the world's legions of aviation buffs.

It wasn’t flying so much that ran in his blood, though he possessed multiple type-ratings, as it was the need for space and a feeling of limitlessness. Claustrophobic, he simply hated being indoors, especially in dark rooms. He excelled at juggling obsessions; there would always be warbirds like the B-25, but locating the Book of Spells is what kept him awake at night.

Believe me, I have the documents from that private library in Florence that indicate the Warriors of the Rose, a group loosely connected to Freemasonry, has been safeguarding the Book for close to two-thousand years. Before that, other groups did the same.

You have original documents regarding this? asked Frank, raising an eyebrow.

Copies.

Copies, frowned Frank. From a secret library that no one has ever heard of. Maybe that helps keep you on the best-seller list but—

Copies made with a handheld scanner. But I took tiny samples of the original scrolls, papers and inks. Some were clearly modern, maybe fifty to a hundred years old. But I carbon-dated one papyrus that talks about the Book of Spells to around eleven-fifty BC. The clincher is the chemical composition of the ink on that papyrus. As you know, the Egyptians were big on using colored inks. And the ink on this particular scroll is bright crimson. Crimson and scarlet, because of their resemblance to blood, symbolized life and represented something indelible or deeply ingrained. It makes sense Hui would use that color.

The color doesn’t prove anything. And Hui would have written the scroll after he fled to Phoenicia if your theory is correct. You telling me he carried red ink with him when he was running for his life?

"I sincerely doubt it. But we know from the Bible what the prophet Ezekiel said about the people of Tyre, the city Hui fled to. Ezekiel spoke of the ‘blue and purple from the isles of Elishah’ in which the people were clothed. Tyre was famous for their blue and red dyes. The isles of Elishah refers to islands in the Aegean Sea, where the Tyrians obtained shell-fish, the murex and papura, from which they produced dark-blue and bright-scarlet colors. Minerals in the ink I tested could only have come from the papura. Without a doubt, the date and geographic origin of that scroll has been vetted, Frank, as coming from the time and location of Hui. I have the contents of those scrolls and no one is the wiser."

Sky watched as Frank tapped a finger on his chin and nodded. He was chipping away at his old friend's skepticism, but had a long way to go.

Reminds me of the old days, when we used to steal knowledge, said Frank. The old days referred to Sky and Frank’s habit, as curious high school students, of breaking into the Yavapai County Public Library and reading research books the librarian wouldn’t allow to be checked out. The boys were repeatedly caught and jailed at the nearby Sheriff’s substation in Camp Verde. After the fifth break-in, noting that nothing was ever stolen or vandalized, the judge used Solomonic wisdom and ordered a library key be issued to the budding scholars.

Who owns this library in Italy? The Warriors of the Rose?

"No, it’s some other secret group, with very deep pockets. Top European elite, but don’t ask me who they are. Somebody spent a lot of time, money, and effort to acquire every scrap of information on the Egyptian sorcerer Hui. A lot of the research seems to have been done by a woman, though I haven’t been able to identify her. This group had almost everything I had and a

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