Lost City of the Templars

Lost City of the Templars by Paul Christopher Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Lost City of the Templars by Paul Christopher Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paul Christopher
pounds’ worth of plaques from the cashier, then asked for directions to the vingt-et-un tables. There were three of them clustered at the far end of the room and closest to the bar. Grayle was at the closest one, a heavy crystal scotch glass by his right hand and a cigarette in his left. The tables were semicircular with seating for six players.
    Other than Grayle, there were two other men at the table. Garibaldi chose to sit on the far left. The dealer was using a card shoe with standard Cartamundi green-backed, plastic-covered playing cards exactly like the one in the left-hand pocket of his evening jacket.
    He stayed out of the play for a few minutes watching the exquisitely dressed Grayle work the cards. Grayle was a man of roughly his own age, gray haired and slimly handsome with the arrogant, slightly aloof expression common to the English ruling class. His nails were perfectly manicured with just a hint of artificial gloss, his wedding ring was a simple gold band and the signet ring on his right index finger was the tower and helm crest of the Grayle family. The wristwatch was an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Tourbillon in gold that looked as thin as a credit card.
    Garibaldi watched Grayle play for a dozen hands, betting steadily but not enormously, splitting or doubling down when he had the chance and rarely taking risks. Grayle had no obvious tells like playing with his ring or blinking too much or running his hand through his hair, but this wasn’t the kind of game where things were obvious. Garibaldi did notice a certain flaring of His Lordship’s nostrils when he had two face cards or a perfect twenty-one, but that was about it.
    He wasn’t counting cards and he wasn’t following any system that the priest could see; a man who gambled for recreation only and not because he was good at it or had it riding on his back like a demon.
    Garibaldi began to play in much the same way but with slightly larger bets. When Grayle got bored and tossed a fifty-pound plaque as a tip to the dealer, Garibaldi did the same.
    “Stand you a drink in the bar, Lord Grayle?” Garibaldi said as they left the table. Garibaldi had always been something of a mimic, and his South African accent was nearly perfect.
    “You know me?” Grayle asked.
    “Only by reputation, Your Lordship, and we are in the same business.”
    “Really?” Grayle said.
    “Diamonds,” said the priest.
    •   •   •
    Holliday stood on the main deck of the SS
and stared out into the blinding sheets of rain that pockmarked the river in front of them. The rain was so heavy that the jungle on either side of the ancient sternwheeler was nothing but a dark green blur. Peggy and Rafi were crowded into the pilothouse above him while the two guides, Nenderu and Tanaki, squatted in the stern, protected from the rain by the deck overhang just like Holliday in the bow.
    Even with the pounding rain and the steady chugging rumble of the paddlewheel, a strange silence had settled over everything, and Holliday found his thoughts wandering into strange places he hadn’t been to in many years.
    Another jungle many years ago and his night patrol was moving through the tangled ferns and grass and vines and mud when one of Charlie’s tin pie plate versions of a Claymore went off at waist level, cutting Rusty Smart in half and sending body parts in all directions.
    Rusty had been walking point and Holliday, a corporal then, had been two men back in the line. Rusty’s left forearm, wrist and hand were there in the mud, all blood, shredded flesh and splintered bone, and on his wrist the Timex his dad had given him for graduating from high school. Rusty always had it set on Chicago time, so it was reading seven thirty in the morning.
    All Holliday could think of was that Rusty was dead but his watch was still telling time. “Takes a licking but goes on ticking.” His dad would be sitting down to ham and eggs and home fries at Johnnie’s Grill, and his son was

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