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Undiscovered (Treasure Hunter Security Book 1)(5)

By:Anna Hackett



"He's a thief?"

"He's a former soldier, British Special Forces. He moved into stealing antiquities to sell on the black market a few years ago. He usually does the job himself, and is damn good at sneaking in and out." Dec wasn't sure how much to tell her. He didn't want to frighten her more than she already was. But staring into her face, he knew Dr. Layne Rush was made of pretty tough stuff. And the more information she had, the better off she'd be. "He usually leaves a few dead bodies behind, as well. In fact, he enjoys it."

She gasped, her hands tightening, her knuckles white. "He said he wished he had more time to play before he knocked me out."

Dec wasn't sure what that meant, but he didn't like it. He hadn't heard of Anders working with a team before. Or leaving people alive. All of this sounded off. "He possibly just wanted to keep you quiet."

"I … " Her voice cracked. "In that moment, I had no idea what would happen. If they'd take me, kill me … "

"Hey." Dec tipped her chin up and wasn't surprised to find the skin under her jaw was soft as hell. He had no idea how a woman who spent months on remote digs in harsh conditions had this baby-fine skin. "You're okay. Nothing's going to happen to you."

She pulled in a breath. "So, this Anders guy stole my artifacts."

"Yes. But he doesn't usually work with a team-"

"Or leave people alive," she added.

"Yeah." It was a bit of a mystery, and Dec hated mysteries. "I'm working to track him and your artifacts down." Dec's phone rang. "Sorry." He glanced at the screen. "It's my man, Logan, he's working this job with me. Logan, what have you got?"

"Dec. Just got a call from Hasan Kelada. Said he has a pretty little piece of gold you might want to take a look at."

Yes. "Thanks, Logan. I'll check it out."

Dec flicked his phone off and looked at Rush. "An antiquities dealer I know here in Cairo thinks he just purchased one of your artifacts."

Dr. Rush's eyes widened. "I just spent the morning questioning dealers I know. They said they hadn't seen or heard anything."

Dec pressed his tongue to his teeth. "I'm guessing your dealers are all legitimate."

She nodded. "Of course."

"My guy is … not."

Her gaze narrowed. "Black market?"

"More gray with a few shades of brown. Come on." Dec stood. "Let's go pay him a visit."





Chapter Three




Layne stepped into the overcrowded shop, trying to fight back her righteous anger.

She was going to visit a black-market dealer. Her stomach was turning circles. Someone who took important, valuable pieces of history and sold them for their own personal gain.

The shop looked like any other one in the Khan el-Khalili. It was crammed full of cheap replicas of Tut's mask, statues, Bastet cats, and seated scribes. Gaudy papyri covered the walls. One side of the store was filled with shisha pipes. She wondered how the hell the tourists got those home on the plane.

An older Egyptian lady watched them from the back of the shop.

Declan stepped forward and to Layne's shock, spoke in perfect Arabic. He traded greetings with the woman, even got a smile out of her, then she waved them through a door in the back.

They walked down a dingy hall.

"You speak Arabic?" she asked, studying him.

"Picked it up on the teams."

Her gaze narrowed. His face would probably be considered handsome by some. But no one would accuse him of being pretty. His features had a hard, sharp edge that matched the intensity of his gunmetal-gray eyes. His nose was slightly crooked and she wondered how he'd broken it.

Well, the man was sure blowing her idea of muscled, macho SEALs who were all brawn and no brains out of the water.

At the end of the hall, a burly man leaned against the wall, watching them get closer. He looked bored, but Layne saw the pistol holstered at his hip, and she tensed.

The man didn't say anything to them, just opened the door.

Inside was like stepping into a different world. Layne gasped, pressing a hand to her chest.

It was a small gallery-sleek and polished, where the shop at the front was crowded and worn. The floor was glossy tiles, the walls painted a pearl-gray, and rows of glass display cabinets filled the space. Each was illuminated with discreet lights. Some of the cases were empty and some were not.   





 

Layne hurried over to the first case, her mouth going dry. "Declan, look at this! It's an Eye of Horus." It was an ornate eye with graceful swirls made of gold and inlaid with precious stones. Also called a wadjet, it was a symbol of protection, and this one was in pristine condition. "This is museum-worthy."

"Rush, we're here to get Hasan's help. If you berate him about this, he might just show us the door."

"But-"

"You want your artifacts back? You want to stop Anders?"

She huffed out a breath. "I'm guessing you're going to be annoying. A huge pain in my … side."

A faint smile on his lips. "Count on it."

She wandered down the row of display cases. A bronze of the goddess Hathor. Canopic jars. Sets of amulets. Pottery. Gold jewelry. She flexed her hands. These were some of the best quality pieces she'd seen. "These should all be in museums."

"Where they'll be crowded in with other artifacts, or stored in boxes in dusty back rooms?"

The new, accented voice made her spin.

The man was an older, portly Egyptian with a head full of thick gray hair and a strong-boned face.

"No, studied and admired by thousands." Beside her, she heard Declan sigh. "And by more than just one person with deep pockets."

The man moved forward, a faint smile on his face. "Have you visited some of my country's museums? Dark, dusty, overcrowded, limited security."

She pursed her lips. He wasn't wrong. But that didn't make it right for people to sell them on the black market.

"The Egyptian Museum in Cairo alone has over one hundred and twenty thousand artifacts. I can tell you only a small fraction are on display." He waved a hand. "The rest molder away."

"Hasan, good to see you." Declan came forward to shake hands with the man.

"You too, Declan," the man said warmly. "It's been too long, my friend."

"Hasan, this is Dr. Layne Rush. Rush, Hasan Kelada."

Hasan's bushy eyebrows rose. "Rush? You're from Rhodes University."

She gave him a stiff nod.

"And you run the new dig out near Dakhla." Now the man's eyes widened. "My new acquisition … "

"Was likely stolen from my dig," Layne said.

Declan pressed a hand to her shoulder. "Hasan, can we see it?"

"Of course, of course." He waved them toward a door. "Come into my office."

Hasan's office was nothing like the gallery. A battered wooden desk dominated the space and it was covered in piles of papers and books.

The dealer moved to the back wall and lifted a lovely, framed papyrus showing the famous weighing of the heart scene from the Book of the Dead off the wall. Behind it was a state-of-the-art safe. She watched him enter a code and press his palm to a pad. Biometrics. It was really impressive. She scowled to herself. Who knew that black-market dealers took security of stolen goods so seriously?

Hasan pulled out a tray and set it on his desk.

Layne gasped. "My set-animal amulet!"

"Egypt's set-animal amulet, Dr. Rush," Hasan said dryly.

"Of course. But it was my job to safeguard it until the Ministry of Antiquities-"

"Stuffs it in dusty storage. Somewhere to never see the light of day again."

Her hands balled. "It isn't for you to decide."

"I believe in safeguarding my country's artifacts too, Dr. Rush. But I do it my way, not the bureaucrats' way. I am doing what I think is best."

She raised a brow. "And turning a profit while you do it."

He shot her a charming smile. "A man needs to feed his family."

"Mr. Kalada, I'm pretty sure that Rolex on your wrist isn't a cheap knockoff."

He just smiled at her again.

Declan stepped forward. "Okay, how about you two agree to disagree? Layne, you're sure this is from your dig?"

She touched the edge of the animal, reading the glyphs inscribed on it. "Absolutely."

Declan pinned his gaze on Hasan. "Who sold it to you?"

"A man I hadn't done business with before. A British man. Not the friendliest fellow."

Layne saw Declan tense.

"He only offered you this?" Declan gestured at the amulet.

"Yes. Said it was the last item in the lot he was selling." Hasan sank into his desk chair. "But he said he has more pieces coming. Things of far better quality than this." Hasan laughed, a big bold sound. "He said he was on the verge of discovering Zerzura." The dealer shook his head. "Many crazy foreigners come to Egypt to try and find the lost oasis."   





 

"It's just a myth," Layne said.

Hasan nodded. "That is one thing we can agree on, Dr. Rush."

"Zerzura?" Declan said with a frown.

"You don't know the legend of Zerzura?" Hasan said. "The White City in the desert? A group of British adventurers back during World War II formed the Zerzura Club, and tried to find this treasure-filled city." Hasan's brow creased. "And there was a Hungarian as well, they made a movie about his life."

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