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The Golden Phoenix

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Amid a dangerous web of deception and greed, a priceless artifact made centuries ago in India is finally hunted down.
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Author: Charles Mossop
Description

Sinologist Dr. Gillian Howard is commissioned by a billionaire Hong Kong industrialist to find an artifact known in Chinese historical documents only as The Golden Phoenix. No descriptions had ever been found, and so Howard, irresistibly attracted by the challenge, begins a search without knowing exactly what she is looking for. Using journals and diaries, the logs of East India Company merchant ships, and old manuscripts she discovers in Britain and China, against an historical backdrop of nearly four hundred years, she traces the history of the Phoenix until she finally discovers both what and where it is. However, with her success comes the realization that she has been manipulated and used by her employer in a multimillion-dollar scheme enmeshed in a tangle of lies, deceptions, and sheer relentless greed. She must decide whether to expose the plot, or simply remain silent.

Title

The Golden Phoenix
Author Charles Mossop
Genre Historical Thriller Adventure
Artist Kaytalin Platt
Release January 2016
Length  431 pages
ISBN  978-1-77127-775-4
Price $5.99
Tags history, kings, emperors, battles, sailing ships, navy, research, technology, betrayal, gold, diamonds, fortresses, slaves, theft, murder, suicide, betrayal

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Excerpt

Two nights later, five men dressed in black, their faces covered with soot from tallow candles, made their way through the midnight, moonless streets and lanes of Beijing as soundlessly as wraiths. Morrison, Dubois, and three Chinese men–two brothers and a cousin of a prostitute Dubois had visited on occasion–kept to the shadows, stooping as they ran. Dubois, who possessed a cat-like ability to see in the dark, led the way into a narrow alley lined with stalls and shop-houses, shut and barred for the night. Morrison’s heart hammered against his ribs as if to awaken every citizen in the neighborhood, but his fear was mastered by his lust for the gold and gemstones he had seen with Dubois on his first visit.

Dubois motioned them down, and they crouched in the deep shadow of an overhanging balcony.

“All right,” he whispered, “we are here. The shop is twenty paces in front of us on this side.”

“I think I see three guards,” breathed Morrison, and Dubois nodded.

“Take them,” he whispered, and drawing their knives, the three Chinese moved forward as silently as gliding owls. And like owls seizing unsuspecting prey, they swooped down upon the guards as they sat dozing on stools outside the shop. All Morrison heard was a low grunt as they died. He looked around, but the street remained deserted and still, wrapped in the sable, starless darkness.

The building was a typical shop-house, with the proprietor and his family living on the floor above the business premises. Morrison stood watch while Dubois and the others carefully forced open the narrow wooden door with barely a sound, then dragged the bodies of the three guards in from the street. Once inside the windowless shop, each man lit a candle using a hot coal carried by Dubois in a ventilated earthenware pot, and quickly set about filling large cloth bags with gold and precious stones.

“No silver or bronze,” whispered Dubois. “They will not fetch enough.”

After only a few minutes, their bags heavy with plunder, the five men prepared to flee. Morrison, taking a last look around lest anything of particular value had been overlooked, tripped over a tall bronze vessel as he left the shop, knocking it to the floor with a ringing clang that splintered the silent darkness.

“Ho there,” came a shout from overhead, accompanied by the sound of running feet. “What’s amiss?”

“Run, God damn it,” Morrison hissed in terror, but Dubois held them back.

“Stay where you are. If there is no answer, they will come down and all will be lost.”

“A thousand pardons, Master,” called one of the brothers, disguising his voice with an embarrassed laugh, “I did but stumble in the dark. All is well. I beg your forgiveness for my clumsy stupidity.”

A pause ensued, during which Morrison dared not breathe, but at last the voice shouted back angrily, “Well be careful in future. You are paid to guard my shop, not disturb me at my rest.”

Christ in heaven, said Morrison to himself, and then to Dubois he whispered, “Go, go, for God’s sake. They may yet decide to investigate further.”

The five men left the pillaged shop and melted into the darkness. Morrison, still trembling from the shock of their near discovery, gradually calmed as they went, and began to exult at the success of the venture. As soon as it was deemed safe to stop, brief farewells were exchanged before the three hirelings went their separate ways, each with his bag of plunder. Morrison and Dubois were left alone in the darkness of a narrow, cobbled alley alongside the high brock wall surrounding the Forbidden City.  

“Can they be trusted?” Morrison asked, suddenly fearful.

“Of a certainty. Were they to be arrested they would be dungeoned, flogged almost to death, and then beheaded. They will say nothing.”

Reaching the road where the carriage waited, they quickly changed into ordinary clothing, cleaned their faces and threw their disguises into a cesspit as they gained the country road towards the Summer Palace. The carriage driver, an aged man with a gray beard and few teeth, was given a small gold chalice to seal his silence.

There was but one more thing Morrison wished to do, and he accomplished it the next night with the help of four gardeners. Giving them each two gold pieces, he thanked them in his halting Chinese. They bowed, and hurried away, needing no warnings concerning their silence.     

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