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Authors: J.F. Penn

Tags: #Fiction


BOOK: Exodus
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Title Page



Cairo, Egypt



George Washington Masonic Memorial

Oxford, England

Jerusalem, Israel

Pitt Rivers


Kiryat Malahi, Israel

Cairo, Egypt


Aksum, Ethiopia

Al Jazeera News Broadcast

Serabit el Khadim, Sinai


Dumghe, Holy Mountain of the Lemba


St Catherine's Monastery, Sinai


Crossing Sinai

City of the Dead


Aqaba, Jordan


Mount Nebo



Madaba, Jordan

Jordanian air space

John Soane House

The United Grand Lodge of England


Inner Sanctum


Jerusalem, Western Wall

Al-Jazeera News Broadcast


St Bart's Hospital

Freud Museum, London

Abu Simbel, Egypt


Oxford, England

Thank you

Author's Note


About J.F.Penn


By J.F. Penn

Book 3 in the ARKANE thriller series.

© Joanna Penn (2012). All rights reserved.

This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is coincidental, or fictionalized.

“Have them make an ark of acacia wood … overlay it with pure gold …

Then put in the ark the tablets of the covenant law, which I will give you.”

Exodus 25: 10-16

“God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting 70 of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the Lord.

The people mourned because of the heavy blow the Lord had dealt them.”

1 Samuel 6:19.

Septuagint version and Hebrew manuscripts report 50,070 killed.


Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, Cairo, Egypt. 1.34am

Djinns seep from the cracks of the primeval city as Anubis prowls the Egyptian night in search of the dying. The gods of the ancients are buried deep under Africa’s largest city, but in the dark they claw their way back into consciousness, clinging to eternal life through a remaining glimmer of faith.

Youssef Diab concentrated on the final clue of his crossword puzzle, t
he only noise the hum and whirr of fans that failed to cool the stifling summer heat.
was the only guard on duty tonight because the security company had sent all the men round to the businesses surrounding Tahrir Square. After the political riots of the Arab Spring, they were paying the most for enhanced security so the museum was silent and still, its only occupants the dead.

Suddenly a scream rang out, the noise tinny through the security screen and Youssef was jolted from his crossword, his skin prickling at the haunting sound. It was sharp at first, then trailed off into a trembling moan. Youssef scanned the screens, switching views until he saw movement within the Amarna Period section of the museum.

Knowing there was no one else around to help, Youssef pressed the silent alarm anyway. With some luck, a security team would come and investigate before the intruders left. He squinted at the screen. It looked like they were doing something to the giant statues but he couldn’t see properly who or what had screamed so terribly. Pulling his gun from its holster, Youssef headed downstairs. He had to try to stop them, or he would pay with his job.

On the ground floor, he rounded a corner into the Amarna suite of rooms and inched forward with caution, hugging close to the cramped display cases, where giant heads of pharaohs jostled with mummy cases and the detritus of a long-dead civilization. As he moved closer, Youssef heard another sound, an animal moan that cut through him. He hurried towards it, gun drawn but his shoes squeaked and he froze mid-stride, heart pounding. They didn’t pay him enough to risk his life so easily. He listened carefully but heard no one approach, so he crept on tiptoe to the doorway and peered between two display cases at the scene before him.

A man was tied, spreadeagled, between two massive sculptures, his arms outstretched to the ancient gods as they stared impassively down at his suffering. His shirt was ripped open and blood dripped down to pool at his feet from the sign carved on his chest. It was an ankh, the key of life formed in the shape of a cross with a looped handle, a symbol of eternal life. The man’s face was swollen and bloody from a beating but Youssef realized with a start that the man was one of the specialist curators, Dr Abasi Gamal.

A woman stood in front of him holding a ceremonial knife. A tight black outfit emphasized her feminine curves and a mask of the falcon God Horus covered her face. Around her stood others in the guise of gods made flesh and Youssef recognized Anubis, the jackal and the baboon-headed Thoth. The woman caressed the knife handle as she drew the blade over Abasi’s chest again, cutting lines into his flesh as she spoke.

“Where is it Abasi? I know you've studied it for many years and that you’ve found something new recently. I need to know where the Ark is.”

Abasi looked back at her and Youssef could see a curious fanaticism glinting in his eyes.

“You’ll never find it,” he said. “The Ark has protected itself for generations and it will remain safe from you now. I curse you …”

“Enough,” she shouted, slamming the blunt end of the knife into his solar plexus. He grunted and slumped against his bonds. “I have your journals and I will find your research assistant. I don't need you, but the gods need a sacrifice to bless my quest.”

Youssef heard arousal in her voice, the tones of expectancy as she considered her prize. Abasi looked up at her, his eyes terrified, voice trembling.

“No, you cannot. Please, I would be without rest for eternity.”

The woman beckoned the figures of Anubis and Thoth forward. The men under the masks had muscled arms that allowed no chance for escape as they unhooked Abasi and dragged him to one of the sarcophagi that littered the museum. The Curator struggled and called out in a language Youssef couldn't understand but it sounded like a plea to the gods to spare him.

“The sarcophagus is appropriate,” the woman purred. “For the word means flesh-eater and that is what it shall be for you. This rite is ancient and you should be flattered that your body is to be treated as the Pharaohs were. Of course, they were dead before the process began.”

The men tied the Curator onto the lid of the sarcophagus, stuffing a gag into his mouth so that his moans became muted. He struggled frantically but the ropes held fast, cutting into his wrists. Youssef watched in horror as the woman turned and smashed a display case containing the tools of the mummification process, salvaged from one of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. She selected a chisel and a hammer, caressing the objects, as if anticipating the pleasure to come.

Youssef realized with horror what she was about to do but he was frozen with fear, unable to move. He could only watch as the woman took the thin chisel and hammer and approached the tied man, intoning prayers as the other men responded with a repetitive chorus. Youssef heard the desert in her voice, ancient prayers that called upon gods he had thought long dead. Abasi tried to squirm away, screaming into his gag but Anubis held his head still like a vice in his meaty hands.

Delicately, as if trying not to mark him, the woman inserted the chisel up one of the Curator’s nostrils, her voice rising to a final high note. With a light tap, she banged the chisel and blood spurted out around the instrument. Abasi grunted and she tapped again, harder this time and his eyes rolled back in agony.

“You can still stop this, Abasi,” the woman said, her voice eerily calm for the bloody scene she was creating. “Tell me where the Ark is, for according to the ritual, you must be disemboweled before I drag your brain from your skull.” Abasi moaned against his gag, thrashing his head in a violence of denial. She shook her head. “So be it.”

Gently, as if she was just leaning into him as a lover would, she began to press the knife into his left side. It was blunted from millennia of disuse, so it was hard to penetrate his skin, but she persisted, sawing it to and fro to pierce the curator’s side. As she pushed the knife in, the woman began to breathe faster and Youssef could sense her excitement at this act of intimate violation. He knew he should run, should find help to save the man, but he was transfixed by the horror as Abasi groaned in tortured agony. The masked figures began chanting again, their voices louder now, in words that animated the primitive horror of this place.

Once the tip of the knife blade was in, the woman started to zigzag it through Abasi’s skin, slicing at his flesh. The curator was convulsing, arching away from her but still held down by his bonds and the deities surrounding him. Blood gushed over her hands as she continued cutting, opening up his side. She didn't flinch, just drove the knife deeper until the cut was long enough, then she reached into Abasi’s body and pulled out a loop of his intestines, the stink of it making one of the men gag. Blood and bodily fluids pumped in gouts onto the floor but the curator was still squirming. Youssef gasped, realizing that the man wasn’t dead yet, and the woman wasn’t finished.

“Men have watched their intestines burned before them before they died,” she said, “but for you, we will finish in the traditional way.”

She reached for the long chisel. This time she slammed it up his nose and smashed the hammer into it once, then twice. At the second blow, the chisel emerged from the top of his skull, brain matter and bloody skull fragments dripping from it. The curator gave a loud cry, shuddering as his body arched one more time, before he lay still. The woman calmed her breath as she looked down on the corpse, her clothes stained with his blood, his guts steaming on the floor.

“Take the diaries,” she commanded the men with her. “Search the study for anything else of his and take it all.”

The god-headed men left her standing alone in the room with the mutilated corpse, looking down on her work. Youssef tried to breathe silently although he was sure she could hear his heart thudding in his chest. She turned her head and he pulled himself close to the wall, holding his breath but then he heard her step towards his hiding place and he panicked. Youssef ran down the long hallway away from the mummy room, fleeing the horrific scene as her laughter followed him like a curse.


Oxford, England. 9.43am

“You’re not well enough to leave,” the nurse scowled, holding the discharge papers just out of reach. “You need to rest.”

Dr Morgan Sierra smiled, attempting to move the conversation on as fast as possible.

“The doctor signed off on it, and I’m feeling much better. Really.”

Morgan felt that the nurse could see right through her as she tried to veil the pain in her eyes, but she was determined to get out of the hospital today. ARKANE Director Marietti had secured her a fast release when they had received news of the events at the Museum in Cairo and she wanted to get started on the investigation. The nurse nodded.

“Then I’ll put some extra dressings in your bag with the painkillers because you need to take care of that wound. You’re not superhuman, you know.”

Morgan felt the throbbing in the half-healed knife slash on her left side. She’d had worse injuries though and carried old scars from her life in the Israeli military. The memory of previous pain enabled her to endure what she was feeling now, and yet this throbbing went deeper. The man who had stabbed her had been transformed by a demonic curse and she still felt somehow tainted by his evil.

BOOK: Exodus
4.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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