Manhattan, New York
January 25, 2013, 11:15 P.M.
DERKEIN ODESSA SAUNTERED INTO a study lined with bookshelves and a high ceiling of gold leaf and bas-relief sculptures. He stopped when he saw his father standing behind the large mahogany desk at the back of the room, rifling through the wall safe. A muscle in his jaw ticked. ‘You’re alive then,’ he said.
‘Not now, Derkein.’ His father closed the safe, concealing it with a portrait of his wife.
Folding his arms across his chest, Derkein advanced on him, his footsteps echoing off the hardwood floor. ‘Not now.’ He chuckled without humour.
‘Well, why don’t you give me your card, and I’ll book an appointment.’
‘I’m sorry I didn’t call, but I can’t talk right now. I have a flight to catch.’
When his father turned around, Derkein stopped, his eyes widening. A blood-soaked plaster covered the right side of his father’s neck, red stains on the collar of his white shirt. Derkein hurried over to him. ‘What happened?’ he asked.
‘I’m fine. It’s just a scratch.’
‘You don’t look fine. Where have you been …?’ Derkein paused, the strong smell of tobacco assailing his nose. He scrutinized his father – the purple bags under his eyes, scratch marks on his chin. ‘You’re still searching for it, aren’t you?’ He sighed, raking a hand through his shoulder-length black hair as he lifted his head back. ‘You gave me your word.’
‘I know you disagree with my decision, but you have to understand –’
‘Understand what? Dad, this is not normal.’ Derkein grabbed the bag at his father’s feet, lifted it onto the desk, and tipped it onto its side, scattering the surface with a collection of daggers and guns. He picked up a black leather sheath and pulled out a knife, its broad, stainless blade honed until the cutting edge was almost invisible. He dropped the knife and sheath among the other weapons. ‘You have to stop this.’
Derkein’s heart skipped a beat. ‘What … What happened?’
‘Natural causes. Apparently, his heart gave out.’
‘What do you mean “apparently”?’
With a hesitant glance at Derkein, his father opened the front pocket of the bag and pulled out a burnished copper talisman with an engraved steel band and a circular crevice. ‘Luther and I dug this up in the Roncador Mountains in Mato Grosso, Brazil. The earthquake that hit South America two months ago … We caused it when we removed this from the earth.’ He looked down at the talisman and then back at Derkein, distress clouding his features. ‘The moment the earthquake struck, we passed out. Two hours later, we woke up on Manhattan Bridge.’
‘I don’t understand what you’re saying.’
‘We didn’t fly to New York.’
‘Then how did you get here?’
His father started packing the weapons back inside the bag. ‘I don’t know. Three weeks ago, Luther called me and told me that someone was following him. I think whoever was after him wanted the talisman, and when they didn’t find it, they killed him. Now they’re after me.’
‘So give it to them. Dad, this isn’t worth your life.’
‘I can’t. This is my only connection to Arcadia.’
‘Where are you going?’
‘England,’ his father replied. ‘Thomas might be able to help me. If what he told me about these beings is true, I can’t be around you. They got to Luther. I won’t lose you too.’ He turned around and stared at the portrait covering the safe.
‘I miss Mum too, but it’s been five years. Give up before you end up killing yourself. Arcadia doesn’t exist.’
His father looked at him. ‘It’s out there. I’m going to find it. I will bring her back.’
‘Mum’s dead,’ Derkein snapped. ‘When are you going to get that?’
‘I have to go,’ his father said in a calm voice. ‘I’ll call you when I get there.’
‘I’ll be fine. I always am.’
‘Dad, please –’
An ear-piercing scream ripped through the building. Derkein froze, his eyes the only things that moved. His gaze fixed on his father, who was rummaging through his bag. He took out a black pistol and turned to Derkein, a tortured expression on his face as he placed the weapon in his son’s trembling hand.
‘Shoot anything that moves,’ his father instructed. He placed the talisman around Derkein’s neck, tucking it inside his shirt. ‘Don’t let it out of your sight.’ Cupping Derkein’s face in his hands, he made him meet his gaze. ‘I’m so sorry I got you involved in this.’ He grabbed another gun from the bag.
‘What exactly have you got yourself into, Dad?’
His father looked at him with a solemn expression. ‘If anything happens to me, you find Thomas. Tell him … Tell him he was right.’ He headed towards the door.
‘Dad, wait.’ Derkein went after him. ‘Dad –’
The double doors burst open with a bang.
His father opened fire. ‘Derkein, shoot!’ he yelled.
Derkein glanced around the room in panic and confusion. He saw no one but his father. Then he felt a sharp pain in his arm, heard his shirt tear, and cried out. Something warm dribbled down his arm, and when he placed his hand on it, he saw blood. His father screamed, and he looked up and saw him flying across the room, crashing into a bookshelf that collapsed under him.
‘Dad!’ Derkein sprinted towards him but felt a powerful blow across his chest that sent him flying backwards, and he landed hard on the floor, his gun falling out of his hand. Staggering to his feet, he glanced around for whatever had attacked him but saw nothing. His gaze landed on his father, who was groaning … and then he was gone. There were no bright lights or loud noise. He had just vanished.
As Derkein stared wide-eyed at the spot where his father had been lying only moments before, something like a blast of electricity stunned him, and he felt an intense burning inside his chest. He let out a cry as his body lifted off the ground and hung in midair. Seconds later, he came crashing down …