Authors: Chris Kuzneski
Copyright © 2015 Chris Kuzneski, Inc
The right of Chris Kuzneski to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, with prior permission in writing of the publishers or, in the case of reprographic production, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency.
First published as an Ebook by Headline Publishing Group in 2015
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Cataloguing in Publication Data is available from the British Library.
eISBN: 978 0 7553 8662 8
Cover images © CollaborationJS/Arcangel Images (gunman) and
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Chris Kuzneski is the international bestselling author of numerous thrillers featuring the series characters Payne and Jones, including THE SECRET CROWN and THE EINSTEIN PURSUIT. He is also the author of THE HUNTERS, the first novel in a new electrifying series that continues with THE FORBIDDEN TOMB and THE PRISONER’S GOLD. Chris’s thrillers have been translated into more than twenty languages and are sold in more than forty countries. Chris grew up in Pennsylvania but currently lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida. To learn more, please visit his website:
If you seek, they will find …
The travels of Marco Polo are known throughout the world.
But what if his story isn’t complete?
What if his greatest adventure has yet to be discovered?
Guided by a journal believed to have been dictated by Polo himself, the Hunters set out in search of his final legacy: the mythical treasure gathered during Polo’s lifetime of exploration.
But as every ancient clue brings them closer to the truth, each new step puts them in increasing danger. …
Explosive action. Killer characters. Classic Kuzneski.
Payne & Jones Series
Sign of the Cross
Sword of God
The Lost Throne
The Secret Crown
The Death Relic
The Einstein Pursuit
The Hunters Series
The Forbidden Tomb
The Prisoner’s Gold
‘Kuzneski writes as forcefully as his tough characters act’ Clive Cussler
‘Riveting and relentlessly paced’ James Rollins
‘Kuzneski does it again with another terrific tale, filled with action and deception, bringing the unimaginable to life. Definitely my kind of story!’ Steve Berry
‘With bullets flying and thrills twenty to the dozen, Kuzneski is on explosive top form … You can’t afford not to hunt this one down!’ Scott Mariani
Here are some of the amazing people I’d like to thank:
Scott Miller, Claire Roberts, and the whole gang at Trident Media. They sold this series long before it was written. That’s the sign of a great agency!
Vicki Mellor, Emily Griffin, Darcy Nicholson, Jo Liddiard, Ben Willis, Mari Evans, and everyone at Headline/Hachette UK. They bought this series when it was nothing but an outline, then they helped me bring it to life. Thanks for believing in me and the Hunters.
Ian Harper, my longtime friend/editor/consigliere. He reads my words before anyone else – and then tweaks them until they’re perfect. One of these days, you’ll see his name on a book of his own, and when you do, I urge you to buy it!
Kane Gilmour, who has traveled more than Polo himself. In addition to being a talented writer, he actually visited most of the locations in this book. His time in Asia and Italy helped me get things right. Thanks for all of your help.
All the fans, librarians, booksellers, and critics who have enjoyed my thrillers and have recommended them to others. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.
Last but not least, I’d like to thank my family for their unwavering support. At some point, I’ll actually take some time off and get to thank you in person.
Okay, I think that just about does it. It’s finally time for my favorite part of the book. Without further ado, please sit back, relax, and let me tell you a story …
Republic of Genoa
miles northwest of Rome)
Metal creaked and groaned, startling Rustichello da Pisa from his restless sleep. Even in the fog of slumber, he knew the horrific sound of a cell door opening. Anytime he heard it, he would snap awake to the pounding in his chest – even after all these years.
His senses on full alert, he strained to hear every rustle and scrape on the other side of the wall. He knew the Genoese guards were returning his neighbor after yet another round of torture. With any luck, they were done for the day and wouldn’t be coming for him next.
He would find out soon enough.
The uniformed guards moved into the adjacent cell and dumped their day’s entertainment on the floor with a wet splat. Then they quickly closed the door behind them and left without a word. Only then did Rustichello let out the breath that he had been holding.
He didn’t move until he heard the guards’ heavy footsteps recede down the dark corridor. He always did his best to avoid their notice, unless they were coming for him. On those occasions there was nothing to do but submit. He was too weak and frail to fight them anymore.
There was no sense in making them mad.
He slowly stood from the loose straw on the floor that served as his bed and brushed away the pieces that were tangled in his hair. Then he slipped a hand into his ragged linen trousers and scratched at the fungal infection on the right side of his groin. Thanks to the humid air in the city of Genoa, everything in the dungeon was damp. The walls, the ceiling, the floor, his clothes. Molds and lichens grew over every surface of his cell. Some patches were so large that they looked like broccoli.
On the bright side, at least he hadn’t started eating them.
Or naming them.
Confident that the guards were gone, he moved over to the wall and peered through the small window into the next cell. It was little more than a missing stone that had been dug out by a previous occupant, but the rectangular gap served a monumental purpose. Rustichello and his neighbor used the empty space to chat, to pass the long hours well into the night.