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Authors: Glenn Meade

The Cairo Code

BOOK: The Cairo Code
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BRANDENBURG

“Fast, sly, and slick, this thriller delivers the goods—tension, action, plot twists—until the smoke finally clears.”

—Booklist

“Chilling . . . Another literate and suspenseful thriller from an estimable storyteller who proves that beginner's luck had nothing to do with his impressive debut.”

—Kìrkus Reviews

“This is a terrific book. I confidently predict that it will enjoy a triumph and that we will see many more bestsellers from the same pen. Sheer, nail-biting suspense, a tour de force—Hitchcock would have filmed it as it stands, without changing a single detail.”

—The Sunday Telegraph

“BRANDENBURG is a skillfully plotted and grippingly exciting thriller. BRANDENBURG is a book that I can confidently foresee in the bestseller lists for months to come.”

—The Sunday Press
(Ireland)

“BRANDENBURG by Glenn Meade is certainly one of the best thrillers I've read this year. It has all the signs of a bestseller. First-class plot, credible characters and dialogue, and exotic settings—definitely a winner.”

—Ted Allbury

EXTRAORDINARY ACCLAIM FOR GLENN MEADE

Praise for
The Cairo Code
, previously published as

THE SANDS OF SAKKARA

“Meade weaves well-developed characters into a complex plot that moves at a brisk pace. His vivid descriptions of the sights and sounds of Egypt made me feel like I was back at Sakkara.”

—San Francisco Examiner

“Compelling.”

—Raleigh News & Observer

“Meade captures the flavor of the era, the war and the people.”

—Daily Oklahoman

“A nonstop World War II thriller that will prove much enjoyment to fans of the sub-genre. The story line uses authentic events, which enhance the speed of the novel. . . . Glenn Meade is quickly attaining a reputation for historical thrillers.”

—Midwest Book Review

“A sizzling read, packed with action, great characters, and adventure writing of the highest caliber.”

—Irish-American News

“A heart-wrenching tale of friendship, love and treachery set against the exotic and intriguing backdrop of wartime Egypt.”

—Sullivan County Democrat

“Terrific entertainment, a page-turner in the best tradition of thrillers. It's also unsettlingly plausible.”

—Campbell Armstrong

“Ingenious . . . [Meade] spins out this involving yarn with skill and clarity . . . An outstanding premise!”

—Publishers Weekly

SNOW WOLF

“Rich in period detail, crisply plotted and paced, SNOW WOLF runs well ahead of the pack.”

—People

“A riveting thriller in the tradition of
Day of the Jackal
 . . . what a white-knuckler it is. . . . The good old-fashioned swashbuckling suspense never lets up . . . A major accomplishment.”

—Washington Post Book World

“Consistently absorbing . . . Deftly drawn characters . . . The sweep of a historical romance and the power of a classic heroic quest.”

—New York Times Book Review

“An entirely believable and completely gripping thriller filled with intrigue, treachery, and a wealth of dark secrets.”

—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“[Meade's] scintillating characterization and brilliant plot has you bound to your armchair. Be assured, you will lose sleep—this book is extremely unputdownable.”

—Time Out

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FOR UNA AND NEAL

We had this incredible plan. It would throw the Allies into complete chaos and ruin their intentions of invading Europe. You can't possibly realize how close Germany came to winning the war.

—WALTER SCHELLENBERG, SS GENERAL, IN AN INTERVIEW WITH HIS ALLIED INTERROGATORS AT NUREMBERG, FEBRUARY 1946

Between friends, there is no need of justice.

—ARISTOTLE

THE PRESENT
1
CAIRO

It was April and the
khamsin
was blowing, a howling desert wind that lashed the streets with gusts of blinding sand.

As the taxi pulled up outside the morgue and I stepped out, I wondered again what had possessed me to come here on such a wicked night, and with no more evidence to go on than the corpse of an old man washed up on the banks of the Nile.

“Do you want me to wait, sir?” The taxi driver was a young man with a beard and a mouthful of bad teeth.

“Why not?” It definitely wasn't the kind of night to go looking for another cab.

The morgue was one of those grand, solid old stone buildings you often see in Egypt, a relic of its colonial past, but now it looked quite gloomy and the worse for wear, the granite blackened by years of pollution and neglect. I saw a filthy alleyway at the side, litter swirling in the driving wind. A porch light blazed above a blue-painted door, a metal grille set in the middle. I went down the alleyway and rang the bell. I heard it buzz somewhere inside the building and after a few moments the grille opened and a man's unshaven face appeared.

“Ismail?”

The man nodded.

“I've come to see the old man's body,” I said in Arabic. “The one they fished out of the Nile. Captain Halim of the Cairo police told me to ask for you.”

He seemed surprised that I spoke his language, but then he opened the door with a rattle of bolts and moved aside to let me enter. I stepped in out of the bitter wind, shook sand from my coat, and went into the hallway. I felt a strange excitement fluttering in my chest. Here I was, a man in my middle fifties, feeling like an excited schoolkid, hoping that at last I might find answers to a bizarre mystery that had haunted me for so many years.

It was surprisingly cool inside, and an almost overpowering smell greeted me. A mixture of fragrant scent and decaying flesh. I could see a wooden archway that led into the morgue itself, the area beyond poorly lit by a dim bulb and a couple of guttering, aromatic candles. Several metal tables were set around the room, grubby white sheets draped over the corpses that lay underneath, and built into the morgue's granite walls were at least a dozen stainless steel vaults, their scratched surfaces pitted with dents.

Ismail stared up at me, a well-practiced look of grief on his face. He was small and overweight and wore a faded cotton djellaba. “Are you a relative of the dead one?”

“I'm a journalist.”

The expression of grief faded instantly. “I don't understand.” He frowned. “What do you want here?”

I took out my wallet, generously peeled off several notes and handed them across. “For your trouble.”

“Pardon?”

“Your time. And I won't take up much of it. I'd just like to see the old man's body. Would that be possible? There may be a story in it for me, you understand?”

Ismail obviously did. The money banished any argument, and he smiled as he stuffed the notes into his pocket. “Of course, as you wish. I'm always happy to oblige the gentlemen of the press. You're an American?”

“That's right.”

“I thought so. Come this way.”

•  •  •

He led me into the morgue. It was very cool inside, the flaking walls painted duck-egg blue and the delicate Arab filigree woodwork on the arches and doors an art in itself, but the place looked shabby and in need of renovation.

Ismail gestured to what looked like a small work area, enclosed by a heavy beaded curtain. “The body is over here. I was just working on it when you rang. Not a very pleasant experience when a corpse has been in water for several days. You still wish to see it?”

“That's why I'm here.”

I followed him over and he drew back the curtain. A couple of flickering scented candles were set beside a marble slab, a naked male corpse on top, and next to it was a small metal table with some of the simple tools of the mortician laid out. Waxed cord, cotton wool, some bowls of water. The paraphernalia of death didn't really change much no matter where you were, Cairo or Kansas. There were some clean clothes folded neatly beside the table, an old linen suit and a shirt and tie, socks and shoes, as if they were meant for laying out the corpse.

The old man on the slab must have been well into his seventies and quite tall, at least six foot. His eyes were glassy and open in death, his thinned gray hair sleeked back off his forehead. The skin was white and shriveled from being in the water, his features tight and horribly contorted. But there was no sign of a long scar in the middle of his chest, evidence that he had been sewn up after an autopsy. In Muslim countries, they bury their dead quickly, usually before sunset if death occurs in the morning, otherwise the following day, and the dead are considered sacred and barely touched. Even murder victims are usually only treated to a necropsy: an external visual inspection of the remains to help determine the cause of death, which is educated guesswork at best.

I felt a shiver go through me, for the scent of the candles didn't hide the stench of decomposition, and nodded at the corpse. “What can you tell me about him?”

The mortician shrugged, as if one more death in a chaotic city of fifteen million souls hardly mattered. “He was brought here yesterday. The police found him in the water near the Nile railway bridge. The identification in his wallet said his name was Johann Halder, a German, and he had an address at a flat in the Imbaba district.”

That much I already knew. “Did anyone claim the body?”

“Not yet. The corpse will be kept for a time while relatives are sought. But so far none have been found. It seems he lived alone.”

“I take it he's not of the Muslim faith?”

“A Christian, the police think.”

“Did he drown?”

Ismail nodded. “The pathologist believes so. As you can see, there are no wounds on the body. He thinks maybe the old man fell into the river by accident, as happens sometimes. Or perhaps he's a suicide from one of the bridges.”

He rubbed his stubble. “But it's impossible to know for certain.”

“Anything else you can tell me?”

“I'm afraid not. You'll have to ask the police.”

“From what I hear, they discovered our dead friend had a second set of identity papers hidden at his flat. They were pretty old, and in the name of Hans Meyer.”

Ismail shrugged. “I'm just a simple mortician. I heard nothing about such matters. But I know we have many foreigners living in Cairo, including Germans. You're from an American newspaper?”

“I'm their Middle East correspondent.”

“Interesting.”

“But not half as interesting as the old man could be.”

“You knew him?” Ismail said, surprised.

“Let's just say if he's who I think he is, you could be looking at the earthly remains of a truly incredible man, considering he's supposed to have been dead for well over fifty years.”

“Pardon?”

“A long story. But if it is him, then you've got a very remarkable corpse keeping you company tonight.”

Ismail whistled. “Then no wonder the other gentleman was so interested.”

“Other gentleman?”

“He was here not half an hour ago. He came to inspect the body. An elderly American. Used to getting his way, like most Americans. He barged in here and demanded to see the remains.” Ismail grinned and tapped the pocket of his djellaba. “Alas, he wasn't as generous as some of his countrymen. When I asked him for a little baksheesh he threatened to cut off my hand.”

BOOK: The Cairo Code
5.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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