Read The Khufu Equation Online

Authors: Rail Sharifov

Tags: #treasure, #ancient, #adventure, #discovery

The Khufu Equation (6 page)

BOOK: The Khufu Equation
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A glancing blow on the upper arm sent Pierre out of his trance. He saw the face of a young Creole woman. Immediately he read something in her eyes--a kind of dread--and it deepened his own fear. But the woman had dropped her handbag and was now running toward the clock tower. Half-hesitantly, as if it was some sort of trick, Jean-Pierre picked up the bag. He inspected it as one would open a snuffbox, expecting a little demon to spring out of it, but nothing like that happened. Of course, the thought of discarding the bag did enter his mind, but no sooner had he inspected the bag than he was trotting after the woman. It was already impossible to divert fate from its course.

 

"Madame, you dropped your bag," said Jean-Pierre, his wide-open eyes belying a certain unassuming benevolence.

Jeanette extended her hand to accept the bag, but as she did so Jean-Pierre could perceive surprise in her eyes. The Creole woman took the handbag and gave a slight shrug of the shoulders.

 

"Thank you," she said. Her mind was a flurry of disembodied thoughts and sounds, and unintentionally she sounded mechanical.

"What's the matter with you?" asked Pierre with rising curiosity. "Feeling bad? What can I do for you?" It seemed this young woman, who was pregnant, was about to lose consciousness. He placed a hand under her elbow, ready to give support.

 

"No . . . thank you," said Jeanette. "I'll . . . take care of myself."

"I can see you're not quite yourself," answered Jean-Pierre. "So, I'll just help you on your way. Where is your home?"

 

"Please, leave me alone," she said, and stepped to the side in preparation for an exit. "Thanks again, but I can do it myself." Now she sounded somewhat more resolute, even indignant. "It isn't your business, if you don't mind my saying so. It's my business and my life."

"Excuse me," he said, "for just a moment."

 

Unceremoniously, Jean-Pierre reached for the handbag, found a little notebook and a pen inside, and scribbled something into the book. Then, he returned everything to Jeanette.

"For God's sake, please . . . at least call me when you get home," he said. "I'm really embarrassed that leave you like this, in your condition." The young woman didn't answer but gave a slight, shy smile. She turned round and, with a downward gaze, began walking toward the nearest crosswalk.

 

If anybody could know that at the moment, when Pierre was passing the bag to the beautiful young Creole, that pair of attentive, poisonously green eyes was watching the events on the long pier. Jean-Pierre, having picked up the bag, had become part of an intricate puzzle. It was a mosaic predestined to enshroud its every piece in a carefully plotted curse, from which the only escape was death.

Chapter 7

Giordano decided to that he would leave the Seychelles forever. He pitied himself for having to depart such a marvelous country, but the prospect of ending up in prison wasn't at all attractive.

 

The home of Giordano, the specialist in security equipment, was located in the southwest of the capital Victoria, in the settlement of Mont Fleuri. From this hilly place the view was spectacular. To the left, standing in stark contrast to the blue sky, was a massif known as the Three Brothers. To the north one could catch a glimpse of Victoria and the new port. If look straight to the northeast, there was a landing strip that ended at the sea, beyond which were the granite-and-gneiss sister islands of Serf and Sainte Anne. It was eleven at night when Giordano, easing his legs into the pool, cast his saddened eyes toward the lights of the international airport. He didn't want to leave such an excellent place, but it was simply necessary. He was waiting for a telephone call, and in his shirt pocket was the compact disc marked with the letters "A.N.G." It was his security assurance, but of course a great sum of money had been promised for it. He was embarrassed by the fact.

"They won't keep things simple," he thought. "They want to involve me in their shady venture, but I will work myself. That's one stipulation that'll stay put."

 

Giordano followed a certain rule: If you haven't already been hooked, don't stir up the water in the pond. There are many other ponds where nobody knows you.

He also imagined the finale of a somewhat different scenario: He could be killed while passing off the disc. Promises are generally composed of beautiful words but lack any real basis. Suspecting this to be the case, the Italian had recorded all the office telephone and non-telephone conversations on tape. Having added the copy of the stolen disc, he brought the packet to the cloak-room in the airport. He passed the key to the neighbor chap for a nominal amount. In the case of his death or loss, the neighbor was to take the key to the police station. The telephone rang on the table near the rim of the swimming pool. Giordano pulled his legs back out of the water, sat down in a reed armchair and picked up the phone.

 

"I'm listening."

"Good evening, Mr. Giordano. Do you have the goods?" Kreis' politeness was reminiscent of movie dialogue, where the executioner asks his victim if the noose is too tight.

 

"I have," Giordano replied.

"All right. Fifteen minutes: the turn at the base of the Three Brothers . . . ."

 

There was an attempt to finish the conversation, but Giordano was ahead.

"Come on, Kreis! Don't take me for a fool!"

 

"Thank you . . . in advance," said the voice, and the connection ended.

Moments later, Giordano was ready to go, dressed in trousers and a silky red shirt. There in its hiding place, behind the antique chest of drawers, was his revolver. Giordano brought it up, pushed it beneath his belt, covered it with the shirt and left the room. He checked himself at the mirror in the corridor. He checked from various angles, but the revolver wasn't visible.

 

Three minutes later, he drove out the garage in an old four-door Buick. The meeting was to take place in nine minutes. Giordano knew the drive would take just five minutes, no more. So, he'd have four minutes to check the gun again and prepare for any unexpected turn of events. Two minutes passed, and he was on the road near the Mont Fleuri cemetery. On the large bas-relief at the entrance were carved hundreds of Seychelles names.

The moon was surprisingly bright that night. It shone a piercing cold light, casting into relief the crucifixes on the graves. A sense of foreboding enveloped Giordano. Suddenly, he imagined that one of crosses would become his that very night; that the moon, with its impersonal blue hue, would soon stroke his overgrown sepulchral mound with light only fitting for a petty criminal.

 

Giordano gave a shiver and pressed the accelerator toward the floor. There was a gentle slope down from the cemetery, and after three hundred meters there was the country's main hospital. A complex of three-story hospital buildings was ringed by lovely gardens. Here grew the only bearing coconut palms on the island, other than those in the botanical park. They had been transplanted to Mae Valley from the island of Praslin. The luxurious trees, with their clusters of gigantic pods, bent down toward the rooftops. The hospital garden looked like a mysterious interlacing of bushes, lianas and epiphytes under the full moon.

The theatre of shadows was coming alive, Giordano thought, and the sight was almost magnetic to him. It belonged to some bow-legged fairytale troll, grinning with rotten teeth in a most sinister way. Venturing in, he half-expected to find corpses littered about, the holes of thousands of worms littering their twisted limbs. He might find a serpentine creature, gleaming in fish scales, furiously scouring through the upturned earth. But these were only shadows, drawn forth into the imagination of Giordano Crufo, a man soon to be a fugitive . . . if he could survive this night.

 

The light in the hospital windows was almost entirely extinguished, except for two or three windows on the second floor. Thus the doctors on duty were not asleep. Giordano looked at the lighted windows again and found, to his horror, that the light was the color of dried blood. He even was able to feel its taste in the mouth. It was sweet, like marzipan, but overpoweringly so. However, by no means was this the finale. The delusion melted away, and from the windows, into the darkness of the garden, floated the heavy, bluish, sparkling cloud. Giordano's hands started to tremble. His right foot jammed on the accelerator, and the car rocketed forward. He was unprepared for the power that resided in that big-block eight-cylinder, and almost immediately the torque of it put him in the wrong lane. In the headlights, straight ahead, was the grille of a nine-ton lorry. Thus it seemed that the last second of Giordano's time in the Seychelles would transition to eternity. He saw the gleaming, chrome-plated wheels of the lorry spin and turn; he saw the chromed aluminum bars of the front radiator as they crashed into the interior of the Buick; and he could--with that last blood-spluttering gasp of breath--see those poisonously green, shining eyes.

Not a fraction of a second could be spared. He swerved to the side and, after an impossibly long blind date in Hell, the two vehicles continued on, each in its own direction.

 

Giordano eased on the brake, coasted to the side of the road and then stopped. He closed his eyes and sat for a while, motionless. His nerves were shot. Nothing like that had ever happened to him before, with those hallucinations. He would have to see a doctor as soon as he was away from the Seychelles. Otherwise, another truck might smash into the Buick and press him into it like anchovies into a can. "Pass off the disc, and to heck with the Seychelles." Still, he hadn't suffered a serious injury. Giordano opened his eyes, and he could see that his hands weren't trembling. He was fine. He even managed a weak smile. He pulled back onto the pavement and proceeded on his way.

Just at the same time at underfoot of Three Brothers in a covered jeep, two men were waiting for him: an American, well on in years; and a young Mexican.

 

"Learn, Salvaro, or hand over the keys to your life," the Yankee said.

"How could you hook him, Mister Kreis?"

 

"Half a year ago, our paths crossed," said Kreis, looking at his watch. "Imagine, he is occupied by the same thing, only he's a specialist in safes. I can't let him take money from the safe without punishment, since that's the same money the client was supposed to give me. Giordano works in a rough way, without fantasy. I allowed him to steal all money from the safe, but of course I taped him as he did it. I'm a strategist, and I always think twenty steps ahead. So, now you see that the tape is worth gold."

"Hit him on the head, and then go fishing for breakfast. Right, Mr. Kreis?"

 

"You're beginning to worry me, my friend! You've worked for me just two days, and already you're inclined toward murder. Remember, Salvaro: I always work clean, without blood. Everyone has a weak point. You only have to find it, and he'll do anything you want."

"But, then I don't understand why you haven't found Jeanette's weak point."

 

"These are clever questions, my friend," said Kreis. "Jeanette isn't as simple as you might suspect. She has something that . . . I don't quite understand yet. And you see, she was the wife of my friend, who has died. That's sacred, to me. As a rule, I work in white gloves. My keys are human foolishness, greediness, weak will and--you'll laugh at this one, Salvaro--the absence of spirituality!

"Who would have thought that," said the younger man, smiling at the irony of it.

 

"Salvaro, if you could truly know who I am, then you wouldn't laugh. In my life I was beaten down so much that my balls turned to steel. I repeatedly got into situations where a more ordinary man would have expected to die . . . or would even have welcomed it. Luck would always step on my heels. In one Southeast Asian country, I was actually sentenced to death. But, as you see, I'm still alive."

"How could you manage to deceive death?" asked Salvaro in surprise, his eyebrows drawing closer together.

 

"Death is impossible to deceive," said Kreis. "The fact is, I wasn't on Death's list at that moment. A beautiful woman, with a beautiful name, saved me . . . ." Then he paused. "So, my friend, you must always respect women. In times of difficulty, they will help."

"How did Andrew die?" asked Salvaro. "Didn't you work together?"

 

"He wasn't the same, the last time. He had become distant from me and ultimately decided to work for himself. Out of one such affair, he came back in a crate. I'm trying to clear up the matter of his death and what caused it."

"But . . . he betrayed you, didn't he?"

 

"Sal, he did not . . . betray me. I hope you won't be offended, but I must say you're too young to understand the subtleties, and some things cannot be explained in words. You have to feel them. I want to pass all my experience on to you, though. For one thing, you're not the silly sort; and for another, you have definite capabilities."

"Then, why haven't you taken the disc right from Jeanette?" asked Salvaro.

 

"On one hand," Kreis replied, "she's in her fourth month of pregnancy so it's too risky to disturb her. On the other hand, she doesn't have a very good opinion of me. The safest place is the bank, where she works. I was right about that, the same way a dog senses fresh meat. You'll learn it all in time, my friend."

BOOK: The Khufu Equation
8.28Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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