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Authors: Madyson Rush

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Passage Graves

BOOK: Passage Graves
8.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub



Madyson Rush


Text copyright © 2013 by Madyson Rush

Illustrations copyright 2013 by Julia Starr


All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by MADRUSH Publishing.



SUMMARY: Investigating the connection between two glowing petroglyph spiral symbols, Brynne Thatcher and David Hyden uncover a bizarre theory: There are four locks and four keys lost throughout antiquity. Anyone who finds a matching lock and key will gain one of the powers of the Four Horsemen of Apocalypse (Conqueror, War, Plague, and Death).


First American Edition

For those who believe.


SUNDAY 3:59 p.m.


A dying sun cast jagged shadows off timber fences that protruded from the earth like crooked teeth. The fences stretched along the greensward in a checkered pattern,
forming rectangles of disordered alignment that extended across the plains bordering the Loch of Stenness. There, amidst the gentle rolling pastures, stood Maeshowe, a sudden, massive mound. The megalithic ruin was composed of 100,000 stones and overgrown with five millennia of grass. The passage grave had sat silently for ages, waiting for the sign.

The setting sun aligned with Maeshowe's arched entrance, three oblong slabs of flagstone. A golden ray stretched down the narrow
passage into the inner chamber. It inched across the floor to the tomb's rear wall. The light moved up stone, crossing over faded runic inscriptions. It tightened into a single pinpoint of light and stopped on a blank stretch of rock.

A groan reverberated throughout the chamber.
The sound bounced from stone to stone. Dust swirled off the pebble floor.

With a spark, the dagger of sunlight caught fire to the wall. Like the fingertip of God, it carved an inward spiral
into the stone, twisting inward and then gouging a three-inch hole at the center.

Seconds later
, the sun passed below the horizon.

The inner chamber returned to black.

As if stirred from sleep, the spiral’s afterglow burned ghostly white, the only light in a dome of darkness. The noise returned, escalating inside the chamber until it erupted down the passageway. The cacophony burst out of the passage grave, across the countryside, and stopped short of the sleepy village of Stenness.

Maeshowe was awake.

Chapter 1

MONDAY 2:12 a.m.

Wiltshire, England


“Hold on, Darwin.” David Hyden steadied his lab and made a hard left onto A344. His tires hydroplaned over the wet pavement until rubber gripped road and the Jeep sped forward. He floored the gas pedal. His other foot hovered over the brake. Thick, vertical sheets of rain pelted the windshield. The Jeep’s high beams cut through the downpour, but barely lit the road. Water bounced off the cement, forming a thousand tiny rivers that rushed along the pavement and filled the ditches parallel to the highway.

traveled this route hundreds of times. Hell, he could do it in his sleep. Half the mileage accrued by his 4x4 was from zipping up and down the Salisbury Plains. The hardtop Jeep was a beast capable of conquering Mother Nature. Even this storm—a violent baptism like in the times of Noah—couldn’t stop such a vehicle. The biblical tempest was fitting. Too fitting.

Darwin pressed her nose against
the passenger window.

“You ever seen
it rain like this before?” David asked as if she could answer him.

They reached
the hilltop and caught a glimpse of the next rise. Emergency vehicles, police cars, and ambulances were parked along the road. David gritted his teeth. Half of London’s Patrol had made the 25 miles trek. Lang always managed to blow things out of proportion. Everything was the end of the world.

e pulled off the highway behind an ambulance and parked beside the field fence separating pastureland from the road. A small army of officers in reflective rain slickers buzzed around with emergency flares and flashlights as they made their way up and down the muddy slope.

“Stay here, girl
,” David said to his dog as he opened the door. His boots sunk into mud. Within seconds, his leather jacket and cargo pants were soaked.

What a night.
Pulling his Red Sox ball cap low over his eyes, he glanced over at the man sitting in the ambulance cab.

The EMT rolled down his w
indow. “Oi!” he yelled to David and then looked out at the storm as if savoring his last few minutes of dryness. “Are you the bloke who’s come to identify the body?”

David flipped his jacket collar up over his
neck. “That’s me.”

The EMT smiled and wiped his nose with his coat sleeve. “American, eh? Take your time, mate. Maybe the storm’ll let up.” He nodded toward the top of the crest. “Up there. In the rocks.”

David slipped through an opening in the field fence and followed a narrow, one-lane road up the hill. Thin ropes lined the edges of the walkway, an attempt to keep tourists off the grass. It was a pointless effort. The grass was sodden, trampled muck carved with tire grooves and boot prints. He stepped off the crowded path and forged through the mud to the hilltop. Squeezing through the throng of rain slickers, he passed beneath a towering rock arch. The boulders stood over sixteen feet high. Speckled with black and green lichen, they loomed over the earth like macabre tombstones for the gods.

Floodlights pierce
d the mist.

David stopped
short. His breath momentarily froze in his throat.

At the center of Stonehenge
, a bloody body was strewn across the mud.

“Sorry to mak
e you come all the way out here David.” Chief Detective Inspector Lang stepped through the crowd.

Lang’s face was an open book: a glo
wering brow, frustrated angular eyes, the corners of his mouth turned down—he never bothered to hide his disappointment in David. Rain toppled over the brim of his police hat and caught the tip of his prominent nose—a nose that had prodded its way into the Hyden family’s private life for decades. He squatted below a tarp that shielded the corpse from the storm. “I figured since you were still in London—”

“Let’s get th
is over with,” David said.

With the upturn of his brow, Lang’s
expression changed from dismay to concern.

Good grief
. David wiped the rain from his face. He focused on the figure beneath the tarp. What did Lang want to see? Tears? Anguish? David sure as hell wasn’t going to give it to him.

“Caucasian male
. Mid-60s,” Lang said, looking up at David expectantly.

David kept his eyes on the body. The victim’s face was barely recog
nizable, a bloody, pulpy tangle of flesh and bone. The left side of his skull was imploded, the mouth locked in a silent scream. Mud oozed out the side of his cheek. His eyeballs were bulging and peppered with crimson sand. It looked as if the earth had chewed him up and spit him out. His shirt hung in tatters around a bullet wound at the center of his chest. Stained fabric vaguely resembling pants hung by a belt clasped loosely around his waist. The pants were shredded top to bottom along what remained of his legs.

“The groundskeeper spotted him three hours ago,” Lang said.

“He’s still bleeding.” David pointed to blood seeping from ligature marks around both of the corpse’s wrists. The wounds were so deep they exposed bone.

just rain water,” Lang explained. “It creates the illusion of fresh blood. I’d estimate by the look of his clothing and the degree of rigor, he’s been dead two or three days.” Lang took in a deep breath. “Do we have a positive match, then? I don’t want Ian to have to see this.”

avid nodded. “That’s Brenton.”

Despite the mess, he could never mistake his father.

“Well, whoever did this went through a hell of a lot of trouble to place the body here.” Lang clicked on his flashlight and directed light along the bottom edges of the boulders looming over the scene. Gilded centuries past, Stonehenge possessed an ancient mystique that was only amplified by the corpse at its center. “This park is patrolled 24-7,” Lang continued. “And there were no tracks in the mud other than our own. No footprints. No tire marks. Nothing.” He turned the corpse’s right palm toward David. “Look at this.”

The flesh was covered with blisters
. The collection of sores formed an inward spiral that started at the center of the man’s palm and circled outwards near the base of his fingers.

“Cut the power!” Lang switched off his flashlight as his order echoed across the ruins.

The floodlights went dark.

Before David’s eyes could adjust, the spiral mark on the corpse’s hand began to glow brilliant white. “What the hell is that?” David asked.

“I was hoping you might know,” Lang said.

David shook his head. “I don’t know…I mean, it’s a
Neolithic symbol, a sign that’s repeated in ruins throughout the world. But I’ve never seen anything like that.”

“Chief Inspector!” An officer waved to Lang
from the highway. A black Mercedes limo sat idle on the roadside, its exhaust pouring into the mist. The limo’s rear window rolled down and the man inside leaned into the light.

blood boiled five degrees hotter. “What the hell is Javan doing here?”

” Lang cursed. He brushed water from his mustache.

avan gave them a pleasant wave. The collar of his pinstriped suit was turned up over his neck in a failed attempt to hide an ugly, purple scar running from the base of his neck up alongside his head, the left ear entirely missing. Someone sat in the backseat beside him, a man in shadow.

David scowled. Even
at a distance Javan reeked of corruption. “Am I done here?”

“Yes—of course,” Lang said, distracted. He held up a hand to stall the officer beside the limo. “
David, I’m sorry—”

David was already past the ruin’s edge
heading back to his Jeep. He hurried down the hill, climbed into his car and slammed the door. Soaked to the bone, he shivered as he started the ignition. Rain cascaded down the windshield and blurred his view of the limo. Just ahead, the EMT that had given him directions pulled a gurney from the back of the ambulance.

David lowered his head against the steering wheel.

Thunder rippled across the sky. Darwin watched him from the passenger’s seat. He could hear her nervous panting. She knew something was wrong. He reached over and scratched behind her ears. It was a lousy, half-hearted attempt to comfort her and possibly console himself.

There was a solid knock against the driver’s side window.

David shot upright to see the EMT peering at him through the glass.

“You all right, mate?” the man asked.

David waved him away.

The man
started up the path with the gurney. A body bag was folded on top of the stretcher. David had no idea where they were taking Brenton’s body. He didn’t care. Maybe he should give a damn, but he didn’t. It was as simple as that.

He twisted on his headlights. The beams lit the back of Javan’s limo further up the hill along the s
houlder of the road. Javan had been the lifelong financier of Brenton’s excavations, a necessary evil whose money had made Brenton the most controversial biblical archeologist in the world.

The shadow of the other pas
senger in Javan’s limo caught his attention. The man appeared shorter than Javan, and he sat slumped to the side, the silhouette of his head barely cresting the back seat. It looked as if he was crouched against the door. Sick or something.

David flipped on his high beams. Light reflected off the limo’s back window,
making it impossible to see inside.

Revving the engine, David pul
led onto the highway. As he passed the limo, he took one last look at the man beside Javan. Luminescent eyes stared back at him through the window, following his stare with eerie precision. The man seemed to know David was looking at him. His glowing eyes bored into David’s mind. Parasitic, they penetrated David’s soul, searching for someplace dark and easily finding it. David could envision the man’s contorted smile. It formed across the stranger’s lips, ugly and haunted, strangely familiar. The man wasn’t a stranger. David had seen him before. But where?

A chill rippled down David’s spine.

With a blink, he severed their connection.

reached for the temperature controls and twisted the dial. Heat poured through the vents, but failed to assuage the chill. He floored the gas pedal and disappeared into the mist, glad to leave his father’s corpse behind.

BOOK: Passage Graves
8.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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