Excerpt


 

Chapter One

Brussels

Grace Madison, PhD.

4:00 A.M.

 

The ringing phone interrupted my first good night’s sleep in two weeks. My heart raced, and the Sixth Commandment echoed through my groggy brain.

 

I am archaeologist Grace Madison, and I do not typically kill people.

 

“The shot shattered the window inches from her head.” My son was on the other end of the line, referring to Becca, his bride. “I’m checking in with everybody. Dad was plowing snow off the road to the ranch house. You’re obviously fine in Belgium. Where’s Maggie? I can’t find her.”

 

“Your sister’s in Paris, Jeff. Preparing for a conference in the south.”

 

“You sure about that, Mom? She’s proven to be a missing target before.”

 

“I’ll confirm and get back to you. Give me an hour.”

 

The line went dead. Swatting at the light switch above the nightstand, I knocked over the water carafe, then left a caring tirade in Maggie’s voice mail. After speed-dialing my husband, Mark, in Colorado, I yanked open heavy brocade draperies and nearly pulled a gilt bracket out of the wall.

 

I released the wadded fabric as I gazed eastward, at a clementine line gripping the horizon.

 

###

 

Five A.M.

 

“I can’t find your sister. Your dad is working his way to Paris. Can you meet us there?” I was lucid now, paying attention.

 

FedPol, the Swiss national police force, would want to question Jeff and Becca, and try to prevent them from leaving the country. He was a war correspondent for the BBC, and she was retooling her career after her cover as an MI6 agent had been blown last year. They might have the contacts to flee the bed-and-breakfast high in the Swiss Alps, where I hoped things had been perfect until the glass exploded.

 

“Honeymoon, Mom.”

 

“What’s left of it, dear.” I prodded him, picturing his coppery unibrow spiking above his glasses frame as he fumed. He loved and respected his sister, but would perceive her disappearance during his belated honeymoon as her epic failure. “I checked with her security team. Last they heard, she was swinging through Paris before heading to the water conference in Marseilles.” When he didn’t respond, I continued. “Jeff.” My tone conveyed the Mom Look of Death, but he didn’t give up.

 

“Why was she in Paris? Coax another proposal from Cliff?”

 

I tried to be patient. “Cliff doesn’t require coaxing. She won’t accept his offer anyway. Can you leave Switzerland?”

 

Quiet conversation preceded a rustling thud.

 

Becca’s clear voice meant she snatched the phone. “Dr. M., we’ll be there later today. Is that soon enough? You’re at—your normal location?”

 

I admired her caution, still delighted my son had the sense to marry this formidable young woman. “Yes. Looking forward to seeing you, Becca. Thank you.”

© 2013 N.B.Horton