Hunter of Mysteries

Jack Slade #4

by Richard Dawes

The Knights Templar send Jack Slade to the ancient Assassin stronghold of Alamut to recover a magical book hidden among the ruins. The Black Brotherhood, however, has different plans.

Accompanied by a beautiful young woman, Slade battles Brotherhood operatives and astral demons from the Caspian Sea, across Europe and then to Paris in an epic struggle to accomplish the mission.




Jack Slade opened his eyes and stared up at the polished oak beams spanning the ceiling of his bedroom. The sunlight of a bright spring morning streamed in through the open window. He lay on his back, idly pondering the particles of dust dancing in the rays. Feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep, he threw back the black satin sheets, swung his long, muscular legs over the edge of the bed and stood up. Wearing only his boxers, he padded barefoot across the carpeted floor and went into the bathroom.

Later, he emerged with his face washed, his black hair combed straight back, wearing sweat clothes and rubber-soled canvas shoes. Leaving the bedroom, he walked down the hallway to the kitchen. Ellen, his cook and housekeeper, was rinsing the previous night’s dishes and putting them into the dishwasher. A widow in her late forties, she had grey-streaked brown hair, a short plump body and a pleasant, good-natured face. She had been with Slade for five years.

“Good morning, Ellen,” Slade said cheerfully.

“Good morning, Mr. Slade,” she replied, glancing at him over her shoulder.

Sinks and cabinets lined one wall of the spacious kitchen. A restaurant-style stove rested against another, and a huge refrigerator-freezer stood against a third. Slade moved to the counter running through the center of the room and picked up the glass of milk Ellen had set on the polished granite top. As he sipped it, he gazed out the large window in the opposite wall at the Japanese garden extending north and west until it butted against the tree line of a pine forest. His grey eyes roved appreciatively over the ferns, colorful flowers and bamboo trees, rock lanterns and fountain. The fountain fed a rock-lined pool, and a kaleidoscope of colors flashed over the surface as the sun’s rays reflected off the fish darting in its depths. His gaze came to rest on the twenty by thirty foot wooden platform set squarely in the middle of the garden.

“I’ll be busy for the next couple of hours,” Slade said, setting the empty glass on the counter next to Ellen. “I don’t want to be disturbed. Let any phone calls go to the answering machine.”

She picked up the glass. “Certainly.”

Slade went out a side door and walked through the garden along a path of irregularly placed stones until he reached the platform. A tall wooden frame supporting curled sheets of thick clear plastic edged the deck. When it was cold or raining, or excessively hot, Slade lowered the curtains to seal off the platform. A heating and cooling unit concealed among bushes on the side allowed him to control the environment so as not to be disturbed by the vagaries of the weather.

As he stepped onto the deck, a change came over him. This was where he trained, where he honed his hand-to-hand fighting skills. He never lost sight of the fact that in Asia the fighting arts are sacred; they are considered paths to enlightenment. In fact, in Japan, the term ‘dojo’ means ‘way place’ or place for studying the Way—the Way of the Warrior. As Slade moved through his warm-up stretches, he sank down into himself, centered his awareness in his lower abdomen and extended roots deep into the ground beneath his feet. The sunlight was warm on his head and body, helping him bring his muscles, bones and joints to a state of vibrant aliveness.

When he was ready, he moved to one end of the platform where a teakwood dummy hung suspended on slats attached to two wooden posts sunk into the ground. The dummy had two upper arms, an arm at the mid-line and a leg curving down to the deck so he could practice his techniques in as realistic a manner as possible. For the next two hours, interspersed with short breaks, Slade glided around the dummy, drilling his fighting techniques at combat speed and striking the padded surfaces with full force. As he moved, his mind gradually released itself from specifics and entered a state he called witness consciousness. No longer focused on particular moves, centered in the spine and root, his mind expanded spherically until it encompassed everything and nothing, controlled the action without controlling anything. His movements became effortless and spontaneous as he entered a state of ecstasy.

The sun passed its apex and rolled toward the west, bringing Slade back to normal reality. Drenched with sweat, he picked up a towel and dried his face. Still in a state of exultation, his body feeling like electrified rubber, he took the stone path back to the house. A broad lake was just visible through the pine forest down the slope to the west, and he paused to watch sunlight dance and shimmer over its rippling surface.

He moved down the hall, listening to Ellen puttering about, dusting furniture. Glancing at a phone as he went by, he noted there had been no calls.


* * * *


Later, after a shave and a shower, with one of Ellen’s good lunches resting comfortably in his stomach, Slade stepped outside and walked along the short, covered walkway to his study behind the house. The sun was sinking below the tops of the trees, and the garden floated in a shifting sea of purple shadows. A cool breeze drifted up from the lake, whispering softly as it wafted through the pines.

Slade opened the door, entered the study, then paused and breathed a deep sigh of pleasure.

The study was his headquarters when at home—his sanctum sanctorum. Lamplight threw a mellow glow over walls lined with bookshelves crammed with books, many quite ancient and rare, that Slade had collected from all over the world. A huge globe rested in a mahogany stand in one corner, while a small, select collection of bladed weapons—swords, daggers and dirks—adorned a narrow space between two bookcases. Moving past cushioned chairs and a small sofa set in the middle of the carpeted floor, Slade approached his desk—a long, ornately carved mahogany bench—sitting beneath a window overlooking the garden.

Besides his computer, reference books and pages filled with notes from a project he was working on cluttered the top. Irresistibly, his gaze came to rest on a thick, leather-bound tome lying open on the desk. It was a thirteenth century treatise on alchemy. The yellowed, moth-eaten pages were made of parchment, the margins illuminated with esoteric drawings, the text hand written in Latin. He paid a considerable sum for the book from an antiques dealer the last time he was in Paris. Now he was translating the text into English.

Fired with enthusiasm, he sat down and drew the book toward him. Then he paused and glanced at a phone sitting on the desktop beside an ancient, fanged, human skull. On impulse, he picked up the receiver and dialed a number.

“Carlyle’s Firing Range,” came the gruff response.

“Jeff...this is Slade.”

“Hey buddy, how you doin’?”

“Fine. Listen, I was wondering if you have a couple of hours available on the obstacle range later this evening?”

“I sure do, buddy. Come on down.”

“Say, from eight to ten?”

“You got it.”

Slade replaced the receiver and sat for a moment, lost in thought. Jeff Carlyle was an ex-FBI man. He opened a firing range when he retired to keep himself busy and to escape the watchful eyes of his wife. At considerable expense, he installed an obstacle course—more a maze, really—that closely simulated urban combat conditions. It provided pop-up, surprise targets at every turn. Carlyle changed the targets’ positions regularly so his patrons wouldn’t get used to seeing the same images in the same places and start reacting from habit. Although Slade utilized the stationary target range—he often used it to warm up for the obstacle course—he considered the urban setting and the moving targets more useful in his line of work.

His evening planned, Slade pulled the text on alchemy toward him and continued with the translations.


* * * *


The buzzer on Slade’s cell phone went off.

Immersed in the esoteric principles of alchemy, he had lost track of time. Glancing up from the page he was studying, he noticed it was already dark outside. A full moon danced over the tops of the pine trees. Grunting with irritation, he reached into his pocket, pulled out the phone and put it to his ear.


“Good evening, Jack,” said a cheerful voice.

“What do you want?”

“Something has come up.”


“The Chief asked me to extend his regrets that your time off must be cut short, but a project has developed that he not only thinks you are right for, but that also might interest you.”

“You have my attention.”

“Do you know anything about the ancient cult of Assassins?”

“I understand that on his death bed, the first Grand Master, Hasan ibn Sabah, said, “‘Nothing is true. Everything is permitted.’”

“Yes, well...” The voice managed to sound dubious and cheerful at the same time. “At any rate, Hasan set up headquarters in the fortress of Alamut, in the Elborz Mountains in northern Iran.”

“Yes,” Slade cut in, “but Alamut was destroyed by Mongols some years after Hasan’s death. It no longer exists.”

“True and untrue. It is true that Mongols under Hulagu Khan destroyed the citadel in 1257, but the foundation and some ruins still exist. In fact, the Iranian government is currently excavating and restoring the site.”

“All right,” Slade conceded. “So where does that take us?”

“It takes us to you traveling to Alamut. You will accompany a scholar and assist him in retrieving what he believes is hidden within a secret vault below the ruins that was never discovered by the Mongols. Then you will escort him and said object to a location in Europe.”

“That sounds like a straight forward commando and protection operation,” Slade objected. “The Diamond Group has plenty of men who can do that kind of work. Why do you need me?”

There was a pause, then, “You will receive detailed information from the scholar, whose name, by the way, is Jacques Broussard. But it seems there may be some sort of malevolent entity guarding the interior of the secret chamber. At least, Broussard believes there is. It may take a man with your expertise to get in and out of Alamut alive. Additionally,” another pause, “there are forces that do not want what Broussard retrieves to make it to its destination. It will be your job to protect him and get the object safely to where it is going.”

“I understand why Jacques Broussard wants to go to Alamut,” Slade observed. “But I don’t see why the Diamond Group is getting involved. What do we get out of it?”

“Broussard believes that in addition to what he is looking for, there is a considerable amount of gold deposited in the chamber. The contract calls for the Diamond Group to finance the operation and provide manpower and protection. Broussard will get his object, and we will take possession of the gold. There may be other artifacts in the chamber, which is the part the Chief thought might interest you. As a bonus, you can take whatever strikes your fancy that will fit in the helicopter.”

“All right.” Slade thought for a moment, then asked, “Are you aware there’s a war going on in that part of the world?”

“Of course,” the voice answered imperturbably. “Your reservations have already been made. You will fly from New York to London. From England, you will fly to Istanbul. At Istanbul, you will meet Jacques Broussard. The two of you will travel in a Diamond Group jet to the town of Rasht beside the Caspian Sea. There will be a commando team and a helicopter waiting for you. The commandos will be your security force when you and Broussard fly to Alamut, and they will transport the gold from the chamber to the helicopter.”

“Why don’t we take the chopper from Tehran? It’s closer than Rasht.”

“It is closer, but it is too big a city. Too conspicuous. This is a covert operation. You must maintain a low profile. The government of Iran will kill you if they discover what you are doing. For those reasons, we believe Rasht is the better choice.”

“What about my gun?”

“You will have the usual clearance all the way to Istanbul. When you arrive at the airports, go to the check-in desks, introduce yourself and show your identification, and you will be walked past customs and security.”

“When do I need to leave?”

“Immediately,” came the cheerful reply.

Slade hung up and stared into space for a moment. Then he reached for the desk phone to call Jeff Carlyle, canceling his shooting reservation.

"Jack Slade: Night of the Hunter" by Richard Dawes


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