The Tenth Chamber

The Tenth Chamber by Glenn Cooper Read Free Book Online

Book: The Tenth Chamber by Glenn Cooper Read Free Book Online
Authors: Glenn Cooper
for some bottled water. Hugo slipped the rucksack from his shoulders and squatted on his haunches with his back up against the rock face to avoid getting dirt on the seat of his khakis. He lit a cheroot and his face registered the first pleasure of the afternoon. Luc remained standing, squinting into the afternoon sun. He pulled the crude map from the back pocket of his jeans, had another look then folded it back up.
    Hugo pouted. ‘I hadn’t appreciated how futile this would be until I got up here. We can hardly see the rocks below us! It’s almost impossible to make anything of the rocks above us! I suppose if there were a big fat cave entrance right off this ledge, maybe we’d find it. You never told me how ridiculous this was going to be.’
    Luc shrugged off his friend’s comments. ‘The map is the key. If it’s for real then perhaps we’ll find something. If it was from this guy’s imagination then we’re getting our sun and our exercise for the week, that’s all. Plus some male bonding.’
    ‘I don’t want to bond with you,’ Hugo said irritably. ‘I’m hot, I’m tired, my new boots hurt and I want to go home.’
    ‘We’ve just started. Relax and enjoy. And did I tell you your boots are splendid?’
    ‘Thank you for noticing. So what’s the map telling you, professor?’
    ‘Nothing yet. Like I said,’ Luc explained patiently, ‘once he’s steered us to the general area by orienting us to the position of the abbey, the village and the river, the only landmarks are this peculiar tree and a pair of waterfalls. Since the tree’s bound to be long gone, if we find waterfalls, then maybe we’re on the right track. If not, we’re probably going to come up empty. What do you say we keep moving?’
    As the afternoon progressed, their trek became more difficult. Periodically, the ledge they were travelling on would taper and disappear and Luc had to find a new reliable ledge higher or lower on the cliff face. The ascents and descents weren’t so difficult as to require anything remotely like technical climbing but he nevertheless worried about Hugo’s abilities to keep his footing. On a couple of occasions he instructed his friend to pass his rucksack up on a short rope before Hugo would begin his search for foot and hand holds up the vertical face. Hugo grumbled and generally made a nuisance of himself but Luc lightly deflected his groans and kept them forging ahead on their slow, steady pace.
    Down below, a group of kayakers, their boats, in bright primary colours like children’s playthings, paddled downstream. A flock of black kites very high in the pale-blue sky swooped by in the opposite direction. The sun was getting lower and the rich flood plain was taking on the hue of good beer. Luc checked his watch. If they turned back soon they’d be able to make it back to the car in daylight, but he decided to press on for a little while longer. They were approaching a promontory. Once they got beyond it he was hoping they’d be able to get a look at a long stretch of rock face. That would be their go/no-go point.
    Unfortunately, when they got to the promontory the ledge dwindled to nonexistence and the only way to progress was a scramble up a craggy ledge covered in scrubby bushes. It wasn’t an easy decision. Hugo was irritable and tired and Luc knew that the extra climb would delay their return. But the adventurer in him always had to know what was on the other side, so he parked Hugo on the ledge, left his own rucksack behind and said he’d be back in a quarter of an hour or so. Hugo, no longer concerned about staying clean, moodily sat cross-legged on the trail and bit into an apple.
    The climb wasn’t too challenging but Luc was happy to have ditched his friend so he could move at at his own pace. The peak of the promontory was a flat expanse of limestone about three-quarters up the cliff face. The view over the valley was magnificent, almost demanding a photograph, but the sun was low and

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