Product Description About the Author Douglas Preston a regular contributor to The New Yorke r has worked for the American Museum of Natural History and taught English at Princeton University. With his frequent collaborator Lincoln Child he has authored such bestselling thrillers as The Cabinet of Curiosities The Ice Limit Thunderhead Riptide Reliquary Mount Dragon and Relic which became a major Hollywood picture. An earlier solo novel Jennie was published by Tor Books and was turned into a television movie. Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved. 1 Tom Broadbent turned the last corner of the winding drive and found his two brothers already waiting at the great iron gates of the Broadbent compound. Philip irritated was knocking the dottle out of his pipe on one of the gateposts while Vernon gave the buzzer a couple of vigorous presses. The house stood beyond them silent and dark rising from the top of the hill like some pasha’s palace its clerestories chimneys and towers gilded in the rich afternoon light of Santa Fe New Mexico. “It’s not like Father to be late” said Philip. He slipped the pipe between his white teeth and closed down on the stem with a little click. He gave the buzzer a stab of his own checked his watch shot his cuff. Philip looked pretty much the same Tom thought: briar pipe sardonic eye cheeks well shaved and after-shaved hair brushed straight back from a tall brow gold watch winking at the wrist dressed in gray worsted slacks and navy jacket. His English accent seemed to have gotten a shade plummier. Vernon on the other hand in his gaucho pants sandals long hair and beard looked uncannily like Jesus Christ. “He’s playing another one of his games with us” said Vernon giving the buzzer a few more jabs. The wind whispered through the piñon trees bringing with it a smell of warm resin and dust. The great house was silent. The smell of Philip’s expensive tobacco drifted on the air. He turned to Tom. “And how are things Tom out there among the Indians?” “Fine”. “Glad to hear it.” “And with you?” “Terrific. Couldn’t be better.” “Vernon?” Tom asked. “Everything’s fine. Just great.” The conversation faltered and they looked around at each other and then away embarrassed. Tom never had much to say to his brothers. A crow passed overhead croaking. An uneasy silence settled on the group gathered at the gate. After a long moment Philip gave the buzzer a fresh series of jabs and scowled through the wrought iron grasping the bars. “His car’s still in the garage. The buzzer must be broken.” He drew in air. “Halloo! Father! Halloo! Your devoted sons are here!” There was a creaking sound as the gate opened slightly under his weight. “The gate’s unlocked” Philip said in surprise. “He never leaves the gate unlocked.” “He’s inside waiting for us” said Vernon. “That’s all.” They put their shoulders to the heavy gate and swung it open on protesting hinges. Vernon and Philip went back to get their cars and park them inside while Tom walked in. He came face-to-face with the house—his childhood home. How many years since his last visit? Three? It filled him with odd and conflicting sensations the adult coming back to the scene of his childhood. It was a Santa Fe compound in the grandest sense. The graveled driveway swept in a semicircle past a massive pair of seventeenth-century zaguan doors spiked together from slabs of hand-hewn mesquite. The house itself was a low-slung adobe structure with curving walls sculpted buttresses vigas latillas nichos portals real chimney pots—a work of sculptural art in itself. It was surrounded by cottonwood trees and an emerald lawn. Situated at the top of a hill it had sweeping views of the mountains and high desert the lights of town and the summer thunderheads rearing over the Jemez Mountains. The house hadn’t changed but it felt different. Tom reflected that maybe it was he who was different. One of the garage doors was open and Tom saw his father’s green Mercedes Gelaendewagen parked in the bay. The other two bays were shut. He heard his brother’s cars come crunching around the driveway stopping by the portal. The doors slammed and they joined Tom in front of the house. That was when a troubled feeling began to gather in the pit of Tom’s stomach. “What are we waiting for?” asked Philip mounting the portal and striding up to the zaguan doors giving the doorbell a firm series of depresses. Vernon and Tom followed. There was nothing but silence. Philip always impatient gave the bell a final stab. Tom could hear the deep chimes going off inside the house. It sounded like the first few bars of “Mame” which he thought would be typical of Father’s ironic sense of humor. “Halloo!” Philip called through cupped hands. Still nothing. “Do you think he’s all right?” Tom asked. The uneasy feeling was getting stronger. “Of course he’s all right” said Philip crossly. “This is just another one of his games.” He pounded on the great Mexican door with a closed fist booming and rattling it. As Tom looked about he saw that the yard had an unkempt look the grass unmowed new weeds sprouting in the tulip beds. “I’m going to take a look in a window” Tom said. He forced his way through a hedge of trimmed chamisa tiptoed through a flower bed and peered in the living room window. Something was very wrong but it took him a moment to realize just what. The room seemed normal: same leather sofas and wing chairs same stone fireplace same coffee table. But above the fireplace there had been a big painting—he couldn’t remember which one—and now it was gone. He racked his brains. Was it the Braque or the Monet? Then he noticed that the Roman bronze statue of a boy that held court to the left of the fireplace was also gone. The bookshelves revealed holes where books had been taken out. The room had a disorderly look. Beyond the doorway to the hall he could see trash lying on the floor some crumpled paper a strip of bubble wrap and a discarded roll of packing tape. “What’s up Doc?” Philip’s voice came floating around the corner. “You better have a look.” Philip picked his way through the bushes with his Ferragamo wingtips a look of annoyance screwed into his face. Vernon followed. Philip peeked through the window and he gasped. “The Lippi” he said. “Over the sofa. The Lippi’s gone! And the Braque over the fireplace! He’s taken it all away! He’s sold it!” Vernon spoke. “Philip don’t get excited. He probably just packed the stuff up. Maybe he’s moving. You’ve been telling him for years this house was too big and isolated.” Philip’s face relaxed abruptly. “Yes. Of course.” “That must be what this mysterious meeting’s all about” Vernon said. Philip nodded and mopped his brow with a silk handkerchief. “I must be tired from the flight. Vernon you’re right. Of course they’ve been packing. But what a mess they’ve made of it. When Father sees this he’s going to have a fit.” There was a silence as all three sons stood in the shrubbery looking at each other. Tom’s own sense of unease had reached a high pitch. If their father was moving it was a strange way to go about it. Philip took the pipe out of his mouth. “What say do you think this is another one of his little challenges to us? Some little puzzle?” “I’m going to break in” Tom said. “The alarm.” “The hell with the alarm.” Tom went around to the back of the house his brothers following. He climbed over a wall into a small enclosed garden with a fountain. There was a bedroom window at eye level. Tom wrestled a rock out of the raised flower-bed wall. He brought it to the window positioned himself and hefted it to his shoulder. “Are you really going to smash the window?” said Philip. “How sporting.” Tom heaved the rock and it went crashing through the window. As the tinkling of glass subsided they all waited listening. Silence. “No alarm” said Philip. Tom shook his head. “I don’t like this.” Philip stared through the broken window and Tom could see a sudden thought blooming on his face. Philip cursed and in a flash had vaulted through the broken windowframe—wingtips pipe and all. Vernon looked at Tom. “What’s with him?” Without answering Tom climbed through the window. Vernon followed. The bedroom was like the rest of the house—stripped of all art. It was a mess: dirty footprints on the carpet trash strips of packing tape bubble wrap and packing popcorn along with nails and the sawed butt ends of lumber. Tom went to the hall. The view disclosed more bare walls where he remembered a Picasso another Braque and a pair of Mayan stelae. Gone all gone. With a rising feeling of panic he ventured down the hall stopping at the archway to the living room. Philip was there standing in the middle of the room looking about his face absolutely white. “I told him again and again this would happen. He was so bloody careless keeping all this stuff here. So damn bloody careless.” “What?” Vernon cried alarmed. “What is it Philip? What’s happened?” Philip said his agonized voice barely above a whisper “We’ve been robbed!” Copyright © 2004 by Splendide Mendax Inc.
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