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Krimis & Thriller
Buch Leseprobe The Secret of the Second Zeus, Anders Kingsley
Anders Kingsley

The Secret of the Second Zeus



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PROLOGUE


February 12, 2015


Near Lausanne, Switzerland


Freelance journalist Marco Frei was only days away from uncovering a scandal that would rock the world with an ugly truth. Lives would be shattered, careers destroyed. Much worse, however, he was only minutes away from being brutally murdered. Eyes closed, mind far away, he didn’t hear the footsteps on the stairs or see the door to his home office opening quietly. What he did notice, though, was the sting of the bullet in his right shoulder, flinging him off his chair and onto the floor, facedown. There had been no warning, no questions asked. The intruder hadn’t tried to kill Marco—not yet. It was just a warning, a way to let Marco know that he meant business.


Stepping farther inside, the stranger spoke, his accent thick, unfamiliar. “Log on to your laptop, fast.”


Still in shock, his ears ringing, Marco hadn’t understood a word. “What do you want?” “Computer log-on!” the intruder repeated. He leveled the gun at Marco again. “Five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . one . . .”


The second shot hit Marco in the back of his right thigh. Through the haze of the burning pain spreading up his leg, he wondered if his wife was still alive downstairs. Somehow, he doubted it.


“Computer password. Now!” This time the shooter started his countdown at three. “Three . . . two . . . one . . .”


“Wait!” Marco screamed at the last moment.


He didn’t know what the stranger wanted, but he had a good guess. It was too late to save his own life—he understood that now—but maybe if he played it right, he could gain enough time to finish his final task. Slowly he stammered out his user name and password.


“Username or password incorrect.” The stranger read out the message on the screen. “Try again. Three . . . two . . .”


“Capital letter . . . the password starts with a capital letter,” Marco forced out, his face still pressed to the floor.


The stranger typed it in again, and smiled. He’d gained access to everything on Marco’s laptop. “Your e-mail password! Three . . . two . . .”


“Zweideutig,” Marco answered in German.


“Spell it!”


“Numeral two, D-E-U-T-I-G.”


The time it took the assassin to confirm the password and type it in had given Marco the vital seconds he needed. A minute later he closed his eyes for good, dying with the knowledge he’d done everything in his power to protect the secret that had led to his imminent death—the secret of the second Zeus. 


 


CHAPTER 1


 


Battling the invisible force that made his eyes squint at the unknown road ahead of him, Tom Rivers repeatedly pulled his eyelids back up. Like swimming against the tide in the ocean though, he held them open for just a moment, until the next big wave would push them down again. His hands were holding on to the steering wheel and his right foot was still pressing down the accelerator keeping the car driving at 60kmh, when his eyelids tightened under the pressure again, this time shutting all the way down. He must have driven blind for only a second, yet long enough to feel his heart pounding fast, like a gambler who had placed his entire life on a single number in a game of roulette. Adjusting the car slightly back to the center of the lane, he stretched his upper body up straight, sighed silently, and turned his head slowly to the right, hoping that the woman he was driving home hadn’t noticed his lapse of concentration. To his relief, Sandra had been strangely silent, staring straight ahead, her expression unreadable. Tom didn’t mind her silence. She had already made this trip to Switzerland the most uplifting two days of his year so far. At first, he’d felt lucky just to be seated opposite the most attractive flight attendant on the plane. It got even better when she engaged him in cheeky banter during the entire takeoff period. Throughout the flight her striking brown eyes had twinkled whenever she passed him, her broad smile revealing cute little dimples. They’d shared a few more jokes while the plane was landing, and eventually agreed to meet for lunch the next day.


Today, when they met again, Tom was wearing the same clothes he’d gotten off the plane in the previous day, jeans and a dark jacket. His chiseled chin was still covered with stubble; his short hair still stood up in tufts, as if he’d just gotten out of bed.


Sandra, though, was another matter entirely. Tom had been expecting to meet the cute girl who’d served him on the plane, her manner demure and her hair pinned up neatly. Instead, a confident, striking Amazon walked up to him, her dark brown hair spilling down her back in loose waves, her complexion as tawny as if she’d just returned from a summer on the Riviera. She looked exotic against the winter-pale Swiss faces all around them. Even the black leather jacket wrapped around her slender body was unexpected. If it hadn’t been for the tiny mole above her pointed chin, Tom might have found it difficult to believe she was the same woman.


***


“The next one to the right,” Sandra said before she guided him the last few hundred yards to her home. “Fancy another drink before going back?” she asked after they had come to a standstill.


“Sorry, Sandra—but I really have to get back now.”


“Why this rush—have you had enough of me already?”


Tom smiled back. “I’d love to stay out all night, but I already feel bad for running off and leaving my friend on our first day together in fifteen years. I told him I’d only be out for lunch—I had no idea you had planned to show me the entire city of Lausanne. And now it’s quarter to seven, and dark outside. He must be worried by now.”


“How much longer will you be in Switzerland?” “I’m not sure yet. Marco bought me a one-way ticket so I could stay as long as I wanted. And since he paid for the flight, it seems a bit rude to abandon him on the first day of my visit.”


“Oh, your friend bought you the ticket? How nice of him. He must be from a good family then, no?”


Tom wished he had a dollar for every time Sandra had asked him about Marco. Ever since he’d mentioned that he was in Switzerland to visit a Swiss journalist named Marco Frei, her interest in his friend had seemed inexhaustible.


“I think this is the first time I’ve ever been out with a date more interested in a friend of mine who she’s never met than in me,” he teased. “Maybe we can have another drink tomorrow if my friend is still busy catching up with work?”


There was an awkward pause. Just as the comforting warmth of the winter sun had seeped out of the chilly evening, her mood seemed to have darkened. “Um . . . I’m pretty busy the next couple days,” she said. “I have some family stuff to catch up with.”


Letting herself out of the car with a brisk “Good night, Tom,” she walked straight to her apartment door without turning around or waving. No sign that she wanted to see him again.


Bewildered, Tom wondered what he’d done to trigger this sudden mood swing. Of course he had teased her a few times, but good-naturedly, and she’d more than held her own in that department. It wasn’t the idea of not seeing her again that bothered Tom so much. After all, he was in Switzerland to see Marco and to distract himself from the painful aftermath of his last relationship, not to hunt for a new partner. No, the thing that troubled Tom most was that it was Sandra who’d initiated everything—the conversation on the plane, the invitation to lunch, the tour through Lausanne. And now, for no reason he could see, she seemed to have suddenly lost interest. He’d never understand women, he thought, resigned.


***


Back at Marco’s house, Tom turned the key in the lock. He pushed on the door, but it didn’t budge. Had it been unlocked already? He turned the key again, puzzled, and it swung in a few feet, then bumped against something—something soft and heavy.


Frozen to the spot, his heart almost stopping, Tom processed the meaning of the dark shape on the floor just past the threshold. Even with her face covered in blood, it was obvious whose body was lying there. He dropped to his knees, desperately feeling for her pulse. Seconds later his hands slipped away covered with blood. He didn’t need to be a medic to understand that he was too late, that the life of his friend’s wife had come to a gruesome end.


Please, at least let Marco be alive. There was no sign of his friend on the ground floor. Tom ran up the stairs, stumbling, his legs rubbery with shock. “Marco? Marco!”


The door to Marco’s home office was wide open, and just inside it he lay sprawled on the floor in a pool of his own blood. Tom stooped over him, so distraught that he was aware of nothing else until he felt a cold sensation at the right side of his head: metal. A gun. Given the circumstances, there was little doubt it was loaded. 


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