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by David Wood

  ARK: A Dane Maddock Adventure

  By David Wood

  Ark- A Dane Maddock Adventure

  Copyright 2015 by David Wood

  Published by Gryphonwood Press

  This book is a work of fiction. All characters and situations are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons and events is entirely coincidental.


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  On that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

  Genesis 7.11-12 .



  Somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean

  The sea was angry. Waves battered the wooden sailing ship, pitching it to and fro and threatening to upend it with each wall of water that broke across its bow. Rising high on every swell and crashing down into every trough, the ship creaked and groaned as it struggled on its Sisyphean journey toward the land that, according to the charts, lay somewhere close by.

  “I swear we haven’t moved in an hour.” Godfrey shouted above the howl of the wind and the rush of the waves. He stood, arm twisted into the rigging to hold him in place, and watched the horizon for any sight of land. It had to be there.

  “Oh, we’ve moved plenty. Up and down, side to side.” Despite his lighthearted words, Hugo’s face was a mask of grim determination. “The gods of the sea are toying with us.”

  “Don’t blaspheme,” Godfrey said. “Not even in jest.” He looked up at the sky as if he expected God Almighty to smite them. Given the current state of things, it would make for a fitting end.

  “Do you think He’s angry?” Hugo’s eyes flitted skyward before returning to the sea. “Because of what we did?”

  “What did we do?” Godfrey knew exactly what Hugo meant, and his comrade’s words echoed his own deep-seated fears, but he was not ready to concede. “We recovered holy relics from the clutches of the Saracens, and we are taking them somewhere far beyond their reach. We are doing His work.” That was the best rationalization he could summon at the moment. He wasn’t sure he believed it, though.

  Icy droplets of rain smacked him in the face, each like a chastisement from above. Salt spray burned his eyes and parched his lips. The taste reminded him of the story of Lot’s wife.

  Don’t look back. Don’t think of home.

  “I don’t know,” Godfrey said. “Sometimes I think we should have pitched the whole cargo into the sea. Then no one could ever lay hands on it.”

  “The Lord has a plan,” Hugo said with more confidence than he felt. “Someday these things might be needed to serve His purpose. Until then, we will stand guard.”

  “Maybe it’s the stones.” Godfrey looked down as if he could see into the hold. “You know what they are.”

  “I know what the old man claimed them to be, but scripture tells a different story. I know which story I choose to believe.”

  The ship suddenly pitched, sweeping both men off of their feet. They held fast to the rigging as the craft once again came perilously close to capsizing. When it righted itself, neither man bothered to stand.

  “We won’t survive many more of those.” He glanced up at the main mast. “The wind has picked up and it’s beginning to play hell with the rigging. We should tell the captain to furl the sails before the mast breaks.”

  Hugo couldn’t hide his surprise. “How does a knight know so much about sailing?”

  Godfrey managed a smile. “When I was a youth, I ran away from home. I worked on a fishing boat for a year. I drank in the filthy seaside taverns, enjoyed the company of some of the filthiest whores you’d ever want to know. That was the best time I ever had.”

  “Are you winding me up? You’re a man of God.”

  “I am now, but I wasn’t back then. As a matter of fact, if we make it through this, I just might…” Whatever Godfrey might or mightn’t have done was lost, along with Godfrey, in the wave that broke over the gunwales and swept him out to sea.

  “Godfrey!” Hugo struggled to stand on the slippery, shifting deck. In a flash of lightning he caught a glimpse of Godfrey’s white tabard amongst the waves. In the next flash, he was gone.

  Another wave swamped the deck, bringing Hugo down hard on his knees. The impact sent dull pain lancing through his legs and up his spine.

  “Lord Almighty, send us a miracle,” he prayed.

  The only answer was a sharp cracking sound from behind him. He turned but already knew what he would see. The mast was breaking. The ship was done for.

  “The relics must be saved,” he said to no one in particular.

  He clambered down into the hold and retrieved the one box about which he cared the most. Inside lay the mysterious stones. He had his doubts about the story surrounding them, but they clearly held tremendous power—power that could only come from God. They must be saved.

  Tucking the box under his arm, he made his way back out onto the deck, which now swarmed with activity. Sailors were fighting to cut the rigging free before the mast gave way completely. Hugo suspected it was far too late.

  As if the sea could hear his thoughts, the largest wave yet crashed into the side of the ship. Hugo fell face-first, his precious box spilling its contents down the sloping deck and into the water. He managed to snatch one of the stones, but everything else was lost.

  In a flash of lightning, he caught one last glimpse of the horizon before the ship finally capsized. What he saw there remained etched in his vision.


  A shock ran through him as he slid off the deck and plunged into the icy depths. Cold blackness enveloped him as he felt the strong current sweep him away.

  He was a poor swimmer, but he managed to kick off his boots to free himself of their weight. Paddling for all he was worth, being careful not to drop the stone, he finally broke the surface. He had time only to suck in a single gasp of air before he went under again.

  Only the thought of saving the precious stone kept him going. It became, in his mind, a holy commission from the Lord Himself. Save this last remaining relic—the only bit of their cargo that remained. He continued to swim, keeping his head above water just enough to stay alive.

  As he felt his strength wane, something struck him a glancing blow on the crown of his head. A plank! Probably a bit of the broken remains of his ship. He grabbed it with both arms and held on for dear life.

  The current swept him along, and he let it carry him. No point in sapping what remained of his energy fighting against it, particularly when he didn’t know in which direction the land lay.

  He watched, searching the horizon for another glimpse of the shoreline he’d spotted just before the ship went down. Finally, he saw it. It was a small island, so agonizingly close he felt he could reach out and touch it, but it wasn’t truly as near as all that. He kept his eyes locked on the spot, savoring the glimpses each lightning flash revealed.

  Too soon, the current bore him past the island and into dark, open water. As he watched its receding outline, he wondered if he would ever see land again.

  Hours later, or perhaps it was days, he awoke to a burning sensation on the back of his neck.

  Am I in hell?

  He opened his eyes and rejoiced to see white sand all around him. He had made it to land. And then another thought struck him—the stone! Did he still have it?

  His left hand was balled in a fist, clamped down so tightly that he was forced to use his other hand to pry his fingers open. There it was. He had saved it. Perhaps the Lord smiled on him after all.

  “Thanks be to God.” He rolled over onto
his back and breathed deeply of the morning air. He didn’t know where he was, but he was alive. That was what mattered the most. He closed his eyes. He could easily fall asleep, but knew he ought to move off the beach and find water, food, and shelter. A shadow passed across his face and he snapped his eyes open.

  Three reddish-brown faces stared down at him.

  Perhaps he was in Hell after all.

  Chapter 1

  Robert couldn’t possibly drink another cup of Turkish coffee. It was delicious, without a doubt, but he’d been jittery even before wandering into the tiny cafe in this dirty corner of Dogubeyazit. Besides, he’d sat in one place for too long. He should get moving again.

  He handed a few bills to the man behind the counter and watched them disappear. The man gave him a quick smile, mischief dancing in his eyes, and turned away. Oh well, getting back change was the least of his concerns right now.

  “Excuse me, but can you tell me how to get to…”

  The man shook his head. “No English,” he said, his back still to Robert.

  “That’s all right, then. Thank you.”

  He stepped out of the dimly lit shop and onto the dark street. No one seemed to be about at what would have been considered an early hour back home. That was fine with him. He tucked his hands into his pockets and resumed his search for the way back.

  Every shadow made him jump. The tiny shadows that flitted across the windows lining the darkened street, dancing across the corners of his vision. The flat, distorted shadows cast by the moonlight. All were dark and foreboding. But it was the moving shadows that were the worst. The long thin shadows that swept across him with every vehicle that passed along the main street. He imagined each one was a hand reaching out to grab him.

  “Pull yourself together, Robert. You’re letting your imagination run wild.”

  But that wasn’t entirely true. Someone was after him, though who it was, he could not fathom.

  He’d suspected it for a while. Several times today he’d seen the same car parked in various places he visited. He’d told himself it was a mere fancy, but when he’d returned to his hotel this evening to find his room ransacked, he’d run. That had been a mistake. Now he was lost.

  “Just keep on the move,” he told himself. “Stay out of sight until you get to your car. You’ll drive to the airport, get on the plane, and you’ll be out of this place.”

  Something rustled in the alleyway to his right and he let out an embarrassingly high-pitched cry. He whirled around, ready to flee again.

  It was a cat, probably after a mouse. Nothing more. It stared up at him, judging him with its wide-eyed stare. Even it knew he was a craven.

  Why did I come here, and alone to boot? I’m not cut out for this cloak and dagger business.

  Of course, it hadn’t seemed like anything other than a scholarly endeavor at the time he decided to make the trip. He was merely following up on an old legend he’d uncovered. To his great pleasure, it had proved to be true, and what he’d discovered was remarkable. Better than that, it was a tantalizing clue that might lead to the greatest prize imaginable.

  At least he no longer had it in his possession. By now, it would be miles from here, on its way across the ocean. He considered calling Dima and warning her to be on the lookout for a mysterious package, but something told him not to. He didn’t know who was after him, or how they’d found out about his search, but if they were to catch up with him, he supposed they could check his outgoing calls and target her next. He couldn’t allow that to happen.

  He took a left turn at random, cutting through an alleyway. He checked his watch. It was ten o’clock. A long time until his flight out but he’d feel better if he found his way back to his hotel and his vehicle soon.

  Several times he’d considered walking up to any of the doors he’d passed and asking directions, but paranoia kept him on the move. If he’d seen a taxi or a police officer, he could have flagged them down, but no luck. He’d really made a mess of things.

  He just needed to make it to the airport. They had security. There he could safely hide in plain sight until his flight departed.

  Why hadn’t he simply hopped in his rental car and driven away? He knew why. He was a coward and completely out of his depth. A day of rising tension and fear had led him to snap.

  He quickened his pace and came out on a familiar street. His hotel was not far from here! Perhaps another mile. His spirits buoyed, he set out down the street at a slow jog. When his hotel came into sight, he quickened to a trot.

  Almost there.

  He was so focused on his destination that he didn’t see the figure lurking in the shadows off to his right. A powerful hand closed around his wrist and another clamped down over his mouth. He tried to cry out, to struggle, but the unseen figure held him fast.

  “Mister Crane.” The speaker’s breath was hot on Robert’s neck. “We have some questions to ask you.”

  Chapter 2

  “The winner by knockout and still champion, Angel Bonebrake!” The crowd packing the arena roared as, in the center of the cage, the referee raised Angel’s hand high in the air. From his seat in the front row, Dane Maddock clapped and whistled. For a brief instant their eyes met and she winked.

  Bones Bonebrake, Angel’s brother and Maddock’s business partner and best friend, elbowed him in the ribs.

  “How does it feel to know your fiancé can beat the crap out of you?”

  Maddock smiled. The truth was, he was still in a daze over his engagement. For years he thought he’d never marry again, but the beautiful Cherokee girl with the vocabulary of a sailor had other plans.

  “I can still kick your ass, Bones. That’s what matters.”

  “Keep dreaming, Maddock.” He looked around at the attendees who were already filing out of the arena. “I suppose we should get out of here. She’s going to be busy with post-fight interviews and all that crap.” Bones caught his sister’s eye, waved, and then pointed to the exit. She smiled, gave him the thumbs up, and then blew Maddock a kiss.

  “Do you think she’s the first mixed martial arts champion to blow kisses in the ring? That’s not very badass.” Bones asked as they pushed their way into the lines of people making their way to the exits.

  Maddock rolled his eyes. “Can we talk about something else?”

  “Sure. Let’s talk about the wedding. Which one of you is going to wear the dress?”

  Maddock silenced his friend with a frown, but it didn’t last. Upon leaving, Bones spent the drive from his uncle Crazy Charlie’s casino, where the fight had taken place, to his mother’s house, speculating about what Maddock’s and Angel’s children would look like.

  “Don’t get me wrong, but it’s going to be weird if I have a bunch of short, blue-eyed blond nephews. I mean, I can teach them how to pull chicks and all that other important stuff you don’t know anything about, but there’s nothing I can do about the DNA. We’ll just have to hope they get that from my sister.”

  At a hair under six feet tall, Maddock was hardly short, but most people look small alongside the burly, six foot five Bones. The big native had lorded his height over Maddock, literally and figuratively, since their days in the Navy SEALs.

  “We haven’t even talked about a wedding date and already you’ve got us having kids? Slow your roll,” Maddock said. The engagement was so new, he wasn’t at all ready to contemplate anything beyond that.

  “Maybe you missed a couple of health classes, but you don’t have to get married before you…” Bones broke off in midsentence and tapped the brakes as his mother’s house came into view.

  “What is it?” Maddock asked. Neither silence nor slow driving could be classified as typical Bones behavior.

  “Something’s not right. Mom’s still back at the casino with Angel, so Grandfather’s the only person home. He goes to bed at, like, eight o’clock and he never leaves a light on.” Bones pointed to the front of the house, where a faint light was barely visible through the front curtain

  “Maybe he left it on for us?” Maddock offered.

  “And waste ten cents worth of electricity? Not a chance.”

  Bones pulled his Dodge Ram pickup over to the side of the road and parked. They hopped out and moved quickly toward the house. As they drew closer, Maddock spotted a shiny white SUV parked behind a clump of trees a short distance away.

  “Do you recognize that car?” He pointed at the SUV.

  Bones shook his head. He quickened his pace and Maddock had to double-time it to keep up.

  “I’ll take the front door, you take the back.” Maddock keenly felt the absence of his Walther, but he had seen no need to take it along to the fight. He wouldn’t have gotten it past the metal detectors at the casino in any case.

  A covered front porch ran across the front of the modest, ranch-style home. Neatly trimmed shrubs and flower beds bursting with life lined the porch on either side of the front steps. Bones’ mom had a green thumb.

  Maddock crept up the front steps, careful not to tread on the second, which he knew to be squeaky. By the time he reached the front door he could just make out unfamiliar voices. He moved to the front window and peered through the tiny slit between the drawn curtains.

  Two well-dressed men, one a hooked-nose man of Middle-Eastern descent; the other a tall black man with a shaved head, stood over Samuel Bonebrake, Bones’ grandfather. The old man sat in a kitchen chair placed in the middle of the living room, his face a mask of serenity.

  “Come on, you obstinate old codger, you are wasting our time,” hook-nose barked. He leaned in close and whispered something in Samuel’s ear.

  “Questioning him will get us nowhere, Ahmed. He won’t talk unless we persuade him,” his partner said. He spoke in a light Jamaican accent that would’ve been pleasant to the ear in other circumstances. He looked down at Samuel, smiled, and drew back his fist.

  Maddock sprang to the front door and turned the knob.


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