The Labyrinth of Osiris

The Labyrinth of Osiris by Paul Sussman Read Free Book Online

Book: The Labyrinth of Osiris by Paul Sussman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paul Sussman
Tags: Fiction, General, Thrillers
rain in the Holy Land. Certainly not in June. It made God’s city look distinctly uncelestial.
    Eventually the downpour slowed and Ben-Roi continued on his way. He passed the Bulghourji Bar and went through a short 50-metre tunnel where he had to flatten himself against the wall to avoid being crushed by a 38 bus. At the other end, just past the Sandrouni Armenian Art Centre, an ornately arched doorway opened to the left, with above it a stone inscribed in Arabic, Armenian and Latin script: Couvent Armenien St Jacques read the only part Ben-Roi could decipher. Three regular policemen and a couple of green-uniformed border police stood guard underneath.
    Ben-Roi flashed his ID and walked through the entrance, only the second time in his seven years with the Jerusalem Police he’d had cause to enter the compound. The Armenian community was a small, close-knit one and, in general, a lot less trouble than its Jewish and Muslim neighbours.
    Inside the gateway, a vaulted passage ran away to his right. To his left was a glass-fronted concierge’s office where three men in leather coats and flat-caps sat huddled around a CCTV monitor. Nava Schwartz, one of the Kishle camera experts, was standing behind them, leaning over towards the screen. When she saw Ben-Roi she waved and chopped a hand, indicating he should follow the passage and take the first opening on the left. It brought him into a small cobbled courtyard hemmed in by high walls, like a prison yard. The entrance to the cathedral was opposite, at the back of a deep, fenced cloister, its doorway cordoned off with a line of red-and-white police tape. Above, painted figures of Christ and the saints gazed into space, pointedly ignoring the cares of the world beneath.
    There were more uniforms standing sentry around the door – all regulars, no border police – and, also, three handguns lined up on the pink marble paving: two Jericho 9mms and a Belgian FN. One of the constables must have noticed the quizzical expression on his face because she tapped her baton against the sign beside the door, which listed the various objects and activities prohibited inside the church. ‘No guns or firearms’ was the only one of the eight stipulations to which the word ‘Absolutely’ had been appended.
    Normally police officers were not supposed to let their weapons out of their sight, but in this instance diplomacy seemed to have won the day. Ben-Roi doubted the same courtesy would have been extended had they been in an Arab place of worship. Then again, Armenians didn’t have a habit of throwing rocks and taking pot-shots at you.
    Unholstering his Jericho, he laid it with the others, switched off his mobile and stepped over the tape into the cathedral. It was dim in here, gloomy, even with the wooden doors thrown back and the entrance drape rolled up. Four giant pillars, thick as sequoia trunks, lumbered towards the domed roof high above; brass lamps hung everywhere, dozens of them, suspended from the ceiling by long chains, filling the air like an armada of miniature spaceships. There were gold and silver icons, and huge time-blackened oil paintings, and heavy carpets and intricately patterned blue and white wall tiles, the overall impression being less a place of worship than the interior of some vast, overstocked antiques emporium. He stood a moment getting his bearings, breathing the musky, incense-heavy air, watching as a sniffer dog and its handler worked the side-chapels to his left, then angled towards a doorway in the right-hand wall. From the room beyond came the strobe-like glare of camera flashes, and a hushed babble of voices.
    ‘Kind of you to join us, Arieh.’
    A balding, thickset man was standing just inside the door, his blue police jacket bearing the leaf and twin crowns insignia of a Nitzav Mishneh – Commander Moshe Gal, head of the David Police Station. He was flanked by his deputy, Chief Superintendent Yitzhak Baum, and First Sergeant Leah Shalev, a busty,

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