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Warning: This novel contains profanity and graphic violence.

Prologue

 
            The doctor helped himself to a cup of coffee in the break room, reached for the cylinder of powdered creamer on a nearby counter, thought better of it, then poured in some soy milk from the battered lab refrigerator instead. Stirring the coffee with a plastic swizzle, he walked thoughtfully across the pale linoleum floor to a cluster of identical heavy-sided chairs. The usual sounds filtered through the door: the rattling of wheelchairs and gurneys, bleats and beeps of instrumentation, the drone of the hospital intercom.
A third-year resident named Deguello had sprawled his lanky limbs across two of the threadbare chairs. Typical, thought the doctor—a resident’s ability to fall asleep instantly, vertical or horizontal, in no matter how uncomfortable a position. As the doctor settled into a chair beside him, the resident stopped his faint snoring and opened one eye.
“Hey, doc,” he murmured. “What time is it?”
The doctor glanced up at the industrial clock, set over the line of lockers along the far wall. “Ten forty-five.”
“God,” Deguello groaned. “That means I’ve only been asleep ten minutes.”
“At least you’ve managed some,” the doctor said, sipping his coffee. “It’s a quiet night.”
Deguello closed the eye again. “Two myocardial infarctions. An open-skull fracture. An emergency C-section. Two gunshot victims, one critical. A third-degree burn case. A knife wound with renal penetration. One simple and one compound fracture. An old gent who stroked out on the gurney. Oxycodone OD. Meth OD. Amphetamine OD. And those were all in—” he paused—“the last ninety minutes.”
The doctor took another sip of coffee. “Like I said—quiet night. But look on the bright side. You could still be doing grand rounds at Mass General.”
The resident was quiet for a moment. “I still don’t understand, doc,” he mumbled. “Why do you do this? Sacrifice yourself on the ER altar every other Friday. I mean, I’ve got no choice. But you’re a big-time anesthesiologist.”
The doctor drained his cup, tossed it in the trash. “A little less curiosity in the presence of your betters, please.” He pushed himself to his feet. “Back into the trenches.”
Out in the hallway, the doctor glanced around at the relative calm. He started toward the operations desk on the far side of the ER when he suddenly noticed an increased bustle of activity. The head nurse came jogging up. “Car accident,” she told him. “One victim, arriving momentarily. I’ve set aside Trauma Two.”
The doctor immediately turned toward the indicated bay. As he did so, the trauma doors buzzed open again and a paramedic team wheeled in a stretcher, followed by two police officers. Instantly, the doctor could see this was serious: the urgency of their actions, their expressions, the blood on their coats and faces, all telegraphed desperation.
“Female, thirtysomething!” one of the paramedics bawled out. “Unresponsive!”
Immediately, the doctor waved them in and turned to a waiting intern. “Get a suture cart.” The intern nodded and jogged away.
“And call Deguello and Corbin!” he called after him.
The paramedics were already wheeling the stretcher into Trauma Two and positioning it beside the table. “On me,” said a nurse as they circled the body. “Careful with that neck collar. One, two, three!” The patient was lifted onto the table, the stretcher pushed away. The doctor got a glimpse of pale white skin; cinnamon hair; a blouse, once white, now soaked with blood. More blood made a drip trail on the floor, leading back toward the trauma area.
Something alarming, like a cold electric current, began to tingle in the back of his brain.
“She was T-boned by a drunk driver,” one of the paramedics said in his ear. “Coded once on the way in.”
Interns piled in, followed by Deguello. “You got a type?” the doctor asked.
The paramedic nodded. “O negative.”
People were busy now, attaching monitors, hanging new IV lines, trundling in crash carts. The doctor turned toward an intern. “Get the blood bank, call for three units.” He thought of the spatter trail across the linoleum. “No, make it four.”
“O2’s full,” called out one nurse as Corbin hurried in.
Deguello came around to the head of the table, peered down at the motionless victim. “Looks cyanotic.”
“Get a blood gas in here,” the doctor rapped. His attention was fixed on the woman’s abdomen, now bared but slick with blood. Quickly, he peeled back the temporary dressing. A dreadful open wound, hastily sutured by the paramedics, was bleeding copiously. He turned toward a nurse and pointed to the area. She swabbed it and he looked again.
“Massive abdominal trauma,” he said. “Possible supine subpulmonary pneumothorax. We’re going to need a pericardial tap.” He turned toward the paramedic. “What the hell caused this? What about the air bag?”
“Slid beneath it,” the man said. “Dashboard snapped in two like a twig and she got hung up on it. They had to come in from the top with the Jaws. Awful scene, man, her Porsche was totally flattened by that drunk bastard’s SUV.”
Porsche. The cold little current in his head tingled more sharply. He straightened up, trying to get a view of the head, but Deguello was in his way. “Significant blunt trauma,” Deguello said. “We’re gonna need a head CT.”
“BP’s down to eighty over thirty-five,” said a nurse. “Pulse ox is seventy-nine.”
“Maintain compression!” Deguello ordered.
The exsanguination was too great, the shock too severe: they had a minute, maybe two at most, to save her. Another nurse came in, hanging blood packs on the IV rack. “That’s not going to do it,” the doctor said. “We’re gonna need a large-bore IV—she’s bleeding out too fast.”
“One milligram epi,” Corbin told an intern.
The nurse turned to the suture cart, grabbed a larger needle, pulled the woman’s limp hand forward to insert it. As she did so, the doctor’s gaze fell upon the hand: slim, very pale. The hand bore a single ring: a platinum wedding band inlaid with a beautiful star sapphire, whiskey colored against a field of black. Sri Lankan, very expensive. He knew, because he’d purchased it.
Suddenly, a sharp tone sounded throughout the trauma room. “Full arrest!” cried a nurse.
For a moment, the doctor just stood there, paralyzed by horror and frozen disbelief. Deguello turned toward one of the interns, and now the doctor could see the woman’s face: hair matted and askew, eyes open and staring, mouth and nose obscured by the breathing equipment.
His dry mouth worked. “Jennifer,” he croaked.
“Losing vitals!” cried the nurse.
“We need lido!” Corbin called. “Lido! Stat!
And then, as quickly as it had come, the paralysis fell away. The doctor wheeled toward a hovering ER nurse. “Defib!” he cried.
She raced to a far corner of the room, wheeled the cart back. “Charging.”
An intern approached, injected the lidocaine, stepped back. The doctor grabbed the paddles, barely able to control his trembling hands. This couldn’t be happening. It had to be a dream, just a bad dream. He’d wake up and he’d be in the break room, slumped over, Deguello snoring in the next chair.
“Charged!” the nurse called out.
“Clear!” The doctor heard the desperate edge in his own voice. As the workers fell back he placed the paddles on her bare, bloody chest, applied the current. Jennifer’s body stiffened, then fell back onto the table.
“Flatline!” cried the nurse monitoring the vitals.
“Charge it again!” he called. A fresh beeping, low and insistent, added its voice to the cacophony.
“Hypovolemic shock,” Deguello muttered. “We never had a chance.”
They don’t know, the doctor thought, as if from a million miles away. They don’t understand. He felt a single tear gather in his eye and begin to trickle down his cheek.
“Recharged!” the defib nurse said.
He reapplied the paddles. Jennifer’s body jumped once again.
“No response,” said the intern at his side.
“That’s it,” Corbin said with a sigh. “Guess you need to call it, Ethan.”
Instead, the doctor threw the paddles aside and began heart massage. He felt her body, unresponsive and cool, moving sluggishly under the sharp motions of his hands.
“Pupils fixed and dilated,” the monitoring nurse said.
But the doctor paid no attention, his heart massage growing increasingly violent and desperate.
The sound in the trauma room, which had been growing increasingly frantic, now began to die away. “Zero cardiac activity,” said the nurse.
“You’d better pronounce her,” said Corbin.
No!” the doctor snapped.
The entire room turned at the anguish in his voice.
“Ethan?” Corbin asked wonderingly.
But instead of responding, the doctor began to cry.
Everyone around him went still, some staring in incomprehension, others looking away in embarrassment. Everyone except one of the interns, who opened the door and walked silently down the corridor. The doctor, still crying, knew where the man was going. He was going to get a shroud.


1
Three Years Later
 
            Growing up in Westport, currently teaching at Yale, Jeremy Logan thought himself familiar with his home state of Connecticut. But the stretch through which he now drove was a revelation. Heading east from Groton—following the e-mailed directions—he’d turned onto US 1 and then, just past Stonington, onto US 1 Alternate. Hugging the gray Atlantic coastline, he’d passed Wequetequock, rolled over a bridge that looked as old as New England itself, then turned sharply right onto a well-paved but unmarked road. Quite abruptly, the mini-malls and tourist motels fell away. He passed a sleepy cove in which lobster boats bobbed at anchor, and then entered an equally sleepy hamlet. And yet it was a real village, a working village, with a general store and a tackle shop and an Episcopal church with a steeple three sizes too large, and gray-shingled houses with trim picket fences painted white. There were no hulking SUVs, no out-of-state plates; and the scattering of people sitting on benches or leaning out front windows waved to him as he passed. The April sunlight was strong, and the sea air had a clean, fresh bite to it. A signboard hanging from the doorframe of the post office informed him he was in Pevensey Point, population 182. Something about the place reminded him irresistibly of Herman Melville.
“Karen,” he said, “if you’d seen this place, you’d never have made us buy that summer cottage in Hyannis.”
Although his wife had died of cancer years ago, Logan still allowed himself to converse with her now and then. Of course it was usually—though not always—more monologue than conversation. At first, he’d been sure to do it only when he was certain not to be overheard. But then—as what had started as a kind of intellectual hobby for him turned increasingly into a profession—he no longer bothered to be so discreet. These days, judging by what he did for a living, people expected him to be a little strange.
Two miles beyond the town, precisely as the directions indicated, a narrow lane led off to the right. Taking it, Logan found himself in a sandy forest of thin scrub pine that soon gave way to tawny dunes. The dunes ended at a metal bridge leading to a low, broad island jutting out into Fishers Island Sound. Even from this distance, Logan could see there were at least a dozen structures on the island, all built of the same reddish-brown stone. At the center were three large five-story buildings that resembled dormitories, arranged in parallel, like dominos. At the far end of the island, partly concealed by the various structures, was an empty airstrip. And beyond everything lay the ocean and the dark green line of Rhode Island.
Logan drove the final mile, stopping at a gatehouse before the bridge. He showed the printed e-mail to the guard inside, who smiled and waved him through. A single sign beside the gatehouse, expensive looking but unobtrusive, read simply CTS.
He crossed the bridge, passed an outlying structure, and pulled into a parking lot. It was surprisingly large: there were at least fifty cars and space for as many more. Nosing into one of the spots, he killed the engine. But instead of exiting, he paused to read the e-mail once again.
 
 
Jeremy,
I’m pleased—and relieved—to hear of your acceptance. I also appreciate your being flexible, since as I mentioned earlier there’s no way yet to know how long your investigation will take. In any case you’ll receive a minimum of two weeks’ compensation, at the rate you specified. I’m sorry I can’t give you more details at this point, but you’re probably used to that. And I have to tell you I can’t wait to see you again after all this time.
Directions to the Center are below. I’ll be waiting for you on the morning of the 18th. Any time between ten and noon will be fine. One other thing: once you’re on board with the project, you might find it hard to get calls out with any degree of certainty, so please be sure you’ve cleared your decks before you arrive. Looking forward to the 18th!
 
Best,
 
E. R
 
 
Logan glanced at his watch: eleven thirty. He turned the note over once in his hands. You might find it hard to get calls out with any degree of certainty. Why was that? Perhaps cell phone towers had never made it beyond picturesque Pevensey Point? Nevertheless, what the e-mail said was true: he was “used to that.” He pulled a duffel bag from the passenger seat, slipped the note into it, and got out of the car.
Located in one of the central dormitory-like buildings, Reception was an understated space that reminded Logan of a hospital or clinic: a half-dozen empty chairs, tables with magazines and journals, a sprinkling of anonymous-looking oil paintings on beige walls, and a single desk occupied by a woman in her mid-thirties. The letters CTS were set into the wall behind her, once again with no indication of what they might stand for.
Logan gave his name to the woman, who in response looked at him with a mixture of curiosity and uneasiness. He took a seat in one of the vacant chairs, expecting a protracted wait. But no sooner had he picked up a recent issue of Harvard Medical Review than a door across from the receptionist opened and Ethan Rush emerged.
“Jeremy,” Rush said, smiling broadly and extending his hand. “Thank you so much for coming.”
“Ethan,” Logan replied, shaking the proffered hand. “Nice to see you again.”
He hadn’t seen Rush since their days at Johns Hopkins more than fifteen years before, when he’d been doing graduate studies and Rush had been attending the medical school. But the man who stood before him retained a remarkable youthfulness. Only a fine tracery of lines at the corners of his eyes bore testament to the passage of years. And yet in the simple act of shaking the man’s hand, Logan had received two very clear impressions from Rush: a shattering, life-changing event and an unswerving, almost obsessive, devotion to a cause.
Dr. Rush glanced around the reception area. “You brought your luggage?”
“It’s in my trunk.”
“Give me the keys, I’ll see that somebody retrieves it for you.”
“It’s a Lotus Elan S four.”
Rush whistled. “The roadster? What year?”
“1968.”
“Very nice. I’ll make sure they treat it with kid gloves.”
Logan dug into his pocket and handed the keys to Rush, who in turn gave them to the receptionist with some whispered instructions. Then he turned and motioned Logan to follow him through the open doorway.
Taking an elevator to the top floor, Rush led the way down a long hallway that smelled faintly of cleaning fluid and chemicals. The resemblance to a hospital grew stronger—and yet it seemed to be a hospital without patients; the few people they passed were dressed in street clothes, ambulatory, and obviously healthy. Logan peered curiously into the open doorways they walked by. He saw conference rooms, a large, empty lecture hall with seats for at least a hundred, laboratories bristling with equipment, what appeared to be a reference library full of paperbound journals and dedicated terminals. More strangely, he noticed several apparently identical rooms, each containing a single, narrow bed with STET dozens—if not hundreds—of wires leading to nearby monitoring instruments. Other doors were closed, their small windows covered by privacy curtains. A group of men and women in white lab coats passed them in the hallway. They glanced at Logan, nodded to Rush.
Stopping before a door marked ‘director,’ Rush opened it and beckoned Logan through a anteroom housing two secretaries and a profusion of bookcases into a private office beyond. It was tastefully decorated, as minimalist as the outer office was crowded. Three of the walls held spare postmodernist paintings in cool blues and grays; the fourth wall appeared to be entirely of glass, covered at the moment by blinds.
In the center of the room was a teakwood table, polished to a brilliant gleam and flanked by two leather chairs. Rush took one and ushered Logan toward the other.
“Can I offer you anything?” the director asked. “Coffee, tea, soda?”
Logan shook his head.
Rush crossed one leg over the other. “Jeremy, I have to be frank. I wasn’t sure you’d be willing to take on this assignment, given how busy you are . . . and how closemouthed I was concerning the particulars.”
“You weren’t sure—even given the fee I charged?”
Rush smiled. “It’s true—your fee is certainly healthy. But then your, ah, work has become somewhat high-profile recently.” He hesitated. “What is it you call your profession again?”
“I’m an enigmalogist.”
“Right. An enigmalogist.” Rush glanced curiously at Logan. “And it’s true you were able to document the existence of the Loch Ness monster?”
“You’d have to take that up with my client for that particular assignment, the University of Edinburgh.”
“Serves me right for asking.” Rush paused. “Speaking of universities, you are a professor, aren’t you?”
“Medieval history. At Yale.”
“And what do they think of your other profession at Yale?”
“High visibility is never a problem. It helps guarantee a large admissions pool.” Logan glanced around the office. He’d often found that new clients preferred to talk about his past accomplishments. It postponed discussion of their own problems.
“I remember those . . . investigations you did at the Peabody Institute and the Applied Physics Lab back in school,” Rush said. “Who would have thought they’d lead you to this?”
“Not me, certainly.” Logan shifted in his seat. “So. Care to tell me just what CTS stands for? Nothing around here seems to give any clue.”
“We do keep our cards pretty close to our vest. Center for Transmortality Studies.”
“Transmortality Studies,” Logan repeated.
Rush nodded. “I founded CTS two years ago.”
Logan glanced at him in surprise. “You founded the Center?”
Rush took a deep breath. A grim look came over his face. “You see, Jeremy, it’s like this. Just over three years ago, I was working an ER shift when my wife, Jennifer, was brought in by paramedics. She’d been in a terrible accident and was completely unresponsive. We tried everything—heart massage, paddles—but it was hopeless. It was the worst moment of my life. There I was, not only unable to save my own wife . . . but I was expected to pronounce her dead, as well.”
Logan shook his head in sympathy.
“Except that I didn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Against the advice of the assisting doctors I continued heroic measures.” He leaned forward. “And, Jeremy—she pulled through. I finally revived her, fourteen minutes after all brain function had ceased.”
“How?”
Rush spread his hands. “It was a miracle. Or so it seemed at the time. It was the most amazing experience you can imagine. It was revelatory, life-altering. To have pulled her back from the brink . . .” He fell briefly silent. “At that moment, the scales fell from my eyes. My life’s work was suddenly revealed. I left Rhode Island Hospital and my practice as an anesthesiologist, and I’ve been studying near-death experiences ever since.”
The life-changing event, Logan thought. Aloud, he said, “Transmortality studies.”
“Exactly. Documenting the various manifestations, trying to analyze and codify the phenomenon. You’d be surprised, Jeremy, how many people have undergone near-death experiences and—in particular—how many similarities they share. Once you’ve come back from the brink, you’re never quite the same. As you might guess, it’s something that stays with you—and with your loved ones.” He swept his hand around the office. “It was almost no effort to raise the money for the Center, all this. Plenty of people who have had near-death experiences are passionately interested in sharing those experiences and learning more about what they might mean.”
“So what goes on at the Center, exactly?” Logan asked.
“At heart, we’re a small community of doctors and researchers—most with relatives or friends who have ‘gone over.’ Survivors of NDEs are invited here to stay for a few weeks or months, to document precisely what happened to them and undergo various batteries of tests.”
“Tests?” Logan asked.
Rush nodded. “Although we’ve been operational only eighteen months now, a great deal of research has been conducted already—and a number of findings made.”
“But, as you say, you’ve kept it all pretty hush-hush.”
Rush smiled. “You can imagine what the good residents of Pevensey Point would say if they knew exactly who had taken over the old Coast Guard training base down the road, or why.”
“Yes, I can.” They’d say you were tampering with fate, he thought. Messing with people brought back from the dead. Now he began to have some idea why his own expertise had been called for. “So exactly what’s been going on here that I can help you with?”
A look of surprise briefly crossed Rush’s face. “Oh, you misunderstand. Nothing’s happening here.”
Logan hesitated. “You’re right—I do misunderstand. If the problem you’re experiencing isn’t here, then why was I summoned?”
“Sorry to be evasive, Jeremy. I can tell you more once you’re on board.”
“But I am on board. That’s why I’m here.”
In reply, Rush stood and walked to the far wall. “No.” And with a single tug he opened the blinds, exposing a wall of windows. Beyond lay the airstrip Logan had noticed on his arrival. But from this vantage, he could see the runway wasn’t empty after all: it was occupied by a Learjet  85, sleek and gleaming in the noonday sun. Rush extended a finger toward it.
“Once you’re on board that,” he said.


2
 
            There were five people on the plane: a crew of two, Logan, Rush, and a CTS staffer bearing two laptops and several folders stuffed with what appeared to be lab results. Once the jet was airborne, Ethan Rush excused himself and walked to the rear to meet with the staffer. Logan fished the latest issue of Nature out of his duffel bag and browsed through it, looking for any new discoveries—or anomalies—that might interest him professionally. Then, feeling drowsy, he set the magazine aside and closed his eyes, intending to doze for five or ten minutes. But when he awoke it was dark outside and Logan felt the disoriented haze of a long, deep sleep. Rush looked over at him from the seat across the aisle.
“Where are we?” Logan asked.
“Coming into Heathrow.” He nodded at the staffer, still sitting in the rear. “Sorry about that—like you, I don’t know exactly how long I’m going to be away, and there was some CTS business that couldn’t wait for my return.”
“Not a problem.” Logan peered out at the lights of London, spread out like a vast yellow blanket beneath them. “Is this our destination?”
Rush shook his head. Then he smiled. “You know, I found it kind of funny, the way you boarded the plane without question. I thought you’d at least do a double take.”
“In my profession you tend to travel a lot. I always carry a passport.”
“Yes, I read that in an article about you. That’s why I didn’t ask you to bring one.”
“In the last six months I’ve been to at least as many foreign countries: Sri Lanka, Ireland, Monaco, Peru, Atlantic City.”
“Atlantic City isn’t a foreign country,” Rush said with a laugh.
“Felt like one to me.”
They landed and taxied to a private hanger, where the CTS staffer deplaned with the laptops and the folders to catch a commercial flight back to New York. Rush and Logan ate dinner while the jet refueled. When they were once again in the air, Rush took a seat beside Logan, a black leather briefcase in one hand.
“I’m going to show you a picture,” he said. “I think it will explain the need for secrecy.” Unsnapping the case, he opened it slightly. Rummaging inside, he pulled out a copy of Fortune and briefly showed it to Logan.
On the cover was a headshot of a man in his mid-fifties. His thick prematurely snow white hair was parted down the middle: a strangely anachronistic look that reminded Logan of a schoolboy from a Victorian-era English public school, Eton or Harrow or Rugby He was thin, a look accentuated by the heavy backlighting of the photograph. The soft, almost feminine contours of his face were sharply offset by unusually weathered skin, as if by exposure to sun or wind; and though the man was not smiling there was a faint amused glint in his blue eyes as he stared at the camera, as if at some private joke he was disinclined to share with the world.
Logan recognized the face—and, as Rush had promised, much of the mystery suddenly became understandable. The face belonged to H. Porter Stone, without doubt the most famous—and by far the richest—treasure hunter in the world. Though “treasure hunter” was probably unfair, Logan decided: Stone had been trained as an archaeologist and had taught the subject at UCLA before his discovery of two ships from the Spanish Plate Fleet, sunk in 1648 in international waters. Those vessels—stuffed with silver, gold, and gemstones, on their way back to Spain from the colonies—instantly made Stone not only extremely wealthy but notorious. That notoriety only increased with his subsequent discoveries: an Incan mausoleum and treasure trove hidden in a mountain col twenty miles from Machu Picchu; after that, an immense cache of carved soapstone birds, animals, and human figures beneath a hill complex in the primeval ruins of Great Zimbabwe. Others had followed in remarkably rapid succession. What ancient civilization, a banner on the magazine cover asked, will he pillage next?
“That’s where we’re going?” Logan asked incredulously. “A treasure hunt? An archaeological dig?”
Rush nodded. “A little of both, actually. Stone’s latest project.”
“What is it?”
“You won’t be in the dark for long.” And Rush opened the case again. As Logan glanced over, he saw the doctor slip the magazine beneath a thin stack of papers. It was only the briefest of glimpses, but Logan noticed the papers were covered with what he thought were hieroglyphs.
Rush closed the case. “I can tell you this is his biggest expedition yet. And the most secret. In addition to the usual need to operate below the radar, there are certain . . . unusual logistical issues, as well.”
Logan nodded. He wasn’t surprised: Stone’s expeditions had become increasingly high profile. They tended to attract a lot of attention, both from a curious press and would-be interlopers. Now, instead of supervising the work himself, Stone had become famously reclusive, directing his expeditions la distance, frequently from halfway around the world. “I have to ask. What exactly is your interest in this? It can’t have anything to do with your Center: any bodies that interest Stone will definitely be dead. Long dead.”
“I’m medical officer for the expedition. But I also have another, more indirect interest.” Rush hesitated. “Look, I really don’t mean to be coy. There are some things you can’t learn until you’re actually at the site. But I can say there are certain, um, peculiar aspects to this dig that have arisen in the last week or so. That’s where you come in.”
“Okay. Then here’s a question that maybe you can answer. Back in your office, you mentioned you were an anesthesiologist before founding the Center. If so, what were you doing working a shift in the emergency room the day your wife was brought in? That should have been years behind you.”
The smile on Rush’s face faded. “That’s a question I used to hear all the time. Before Jennifer’s NDE, that is. I always gave a flippant answer. The fact is, Jeremy, I trained as an ER specialist. But somehow, I could never get used to the death.” He shook his head. “Ironic, isn’t it? Oh, I could handle natural causes all right: cancer and pneumonia and nephritis. But sudden, violent death . . .”
“For an ER doctor, that’s quite a millstone,” Logan replied.
“You said it. That fear of death—of dealing with it, I mean—is why I changed fields, became an anesthesiologist instead of an ER doc. But it still haunted me. Running away did no good: I had to be able to stare death in the eye. So to keep my hand in, so to speak, I did ER duty every other week. Sort of like wearing a hair shirt.”
“Or like Mithradates,” Logan said.
“Who?”
“Mithradates the Sixth, king of Pontus. He was in constant fear of being poisoned. So he tried to inure himself by taking sublethal doses every day, until his system was hardened.”
“Taking poison to develop an immunity to it,” Rush said. “Sounds like what I was doing, all right. Anyway, after the experience with my wife, I left medical practice entirely and founded the clinic. I stopped trying to fight my aversion to death. Instead I’ve put it to positive use: studying those who have escaped its embrace.”
“I have to ask. Why found your own clinic? I mean, it’s my understanding there are already several organizations devoted to near-death experiences. Graduate students are majoring in NDEs and ‘consciousness studies.’”
“That’s true. But none of them are as large, as centralized, or as focused as CTS. And besides, we’ve branched out into some unique avenues of study.”
He excused himself and Logan turned to the window, looking out into blackness. It was a clear night, and a brief study of the constellations confirmed they were traveling east. But where, exactly? It seemed Porter Stone had sent expeditions to just about every corner of the globe: Peru, Tibet, Cambodia, Morocco. The man had what the news accounts liked to call the Midas touch: it seemed every project he undertook turned to gold.
Logan thought of the briefcase, and the sheets of paper covered with hieroglyphs. Then he closed his eyes.
When he awoke again, it was morning. He stretched, shifted in his seat, peered once again out the window. Below him now, he could make out a broad brown river, with narrow strips of green fringing it. Beyond lay an arid landscape. Then he froze. There, on the horizon, was an unmistakable, monolithic shape: a pyramid.
“I knew it,” he breathed.
Rush was seated across the aisle. Hearing this, he glanced over.
“We’re in Egypt,” Logan said.
Rush nodded.
Despite a carefully cultured stoicism, Logan felt a shiver of excitement. “I’ve always wanted to work in Egypt.”
Rush sighed—half in amusement and half, perhaps, in regret. “I hate to disappoint you, Dr. Logan,” he said, “but actually, it’s nothing quite as straightforward as Egypt.”

 


THE THIRD GATE is copyright © 2012 by Lincoln Child. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this text, or any portion thereof, in any form.


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