Pompeii's Ghosts (A James Acton Thriller, #9)

Pompeii's Ghosts (A James Acton Thriller, #9) by J Robert Kennedy Read Free Book Online

Book: Pompeii's Ghosts (A James Acton Thriller, #9) by J Robert Kennedy Read Free Book Online
Authors: J Robert Kennedy
to stop her,
then stepped out into the night.
    And fled
to the only person she could think of that might be able to help her.
    Father
Solomon.
     
     

 
     

    Lucius Valerius Corvus Residence, Pompeii, Roman Empire
August 24 th , 79 AD
     
    Valerius surveyed his charge and felt all hope drain from him.
Everywhere he looked were neatly stacked piles of gold bars representing
hundreds of thousands of gold coins melted down for transport and to guarantee
their purity. His basement had been expanded quietly before the deliveries,
which then took place over months, discretely.
    And now
it all had to be moved in less than a day.
    Impossible!
    Even if Plinius
were to arrive with the fleet as he hoped, there was no way they could evacuate
the gold in time. The treasure had been delivered in carts along the roads in
perfect conditions. Now it would have to be hand carried to the shores, into
the water, and onto the waiting boats.
    Surely
an impossible task.
    Which
meant there was only one conclusion that Valerius could come to.
    Today
would be the day he died.
    And he
was prepared for that.
    His
heart ached with the pain his wife and children would feel, but the family
honor would remain intact, and for dying trying to save the Emperor’s treasure,
he was certain his family would be taken care of.
    Even if
they couldn’t evacuate the treasure in time, if he remained behind to protect
it from looters, his emperor would still have his gold.
    But if
what he saw outside the last time he looked was any indication, the chances of
looters or himself surviving were slim to none. The ash was now approaching
chest height in places and the roof was starting to show signs of weakness, the
columns cracking. His guard, two dozen of Rome’s finest, had been initially
deployed to try and keep a path clear to the beachfront, but he had redeployed
half of them to the roof to shovel off the rapidly accumulating ash. Their
shifts were short and arduous, the air thick, and they were fighting a losing
battle. Only moments before he had ordered them to concentrate only on the
structure immediately above where he now stood, prepared to sacrifice the rest
of the house so the treasure could be evacuated should help arrive.
    He shook
his head then ran up the stairs, locking the door behind him, the key around
his neck having never left his side since the door was first installed. Only Plinius
and the Emperor himself had copies. As he entered the grand hall he found half
a dozen of his guard lying on the floor, being tended to by one of his female
slaves. They struggled to rise but he waved them off.
    “Rest,”
he said. “I fear we will all need whatever energy we can muster before day’s
end.”
    The head
of his guard, Silus, walked in from the patio, pushing aside the coverings. His
face was blackened with the falling ash, his arms and legs covered in a mix of
the dark matter and sweat, his hair, normally a brilliant blonde now a dusty
gray. He took a goblet of water from one of the slaves, swished it in his mouth
then spat in a proffered bowl. He then poured the rest of the water over his
head, passing the goblet back and wiping his face with the palm of his hand. Silus
looked around the room then his eyebrows raised in recognition as he spotted
his liege.
    “My
Lord, I have good news!”
    Valerius’
heart leapt, praying silently it was the only news he could think of that might
be good. “You have word of the Prefect?”
    Silus nodded.
“Perhaps. A scout has spotted the Prefect’s cutter making for the shore and the
fleet has left port. Other civilian craft are also coming to rescue who they
can. The shores are filled with boats taking away the civilians.”
    Valerius
felt a surge of pride in his fellow Romans, and with Plinius near, there was
renewed hope. “This is indeed good news. Keep the path to the shore clear, and keep
men on the roof. We can’t risk having this hall collapse.” He lowered his
voice. “Now that we know the fleet will

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