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The Martyr's Stone by Nick Hawkes

Read Online The Martyr’s Stone by Nick Hawkes Fantasy Book

Overview: A boy, not yet quite a man, lies dying in marshy ground beside a river. Julian, a monk, finds him. He is given permission by the authorities to care for the boy, who is someone wild and untamable.
Julian had not always been a monk. In an earlier life he was a research scientist. Julian’s world implodes when an ex-colleague from the University is brutally murdered. The shadowy world of the Chinese Communist Party, bent on stealing cutting edge intellectual property, looms over him.
Jade, a Chinese research physicist is inveigled to help the Chinese cause. However, she has not reckoned on the surprises she discovers when meeting Julian.
Scientific secrets, affecting the world’s balance of power, need to be found and kept safe. The martyr’s stone, hidden in a lead-light window, holds the key.
Danger draws Julian, Jade and the boy together as they are forced to hide in the valleys of the Fleurieu Peninsula…in South Australia, and in the secret places of old Port Adelaide.
The final drama is played out deep underground, where surprises await… and true motives are revealed.

Read Online  The Martyr’s Stone by Nick Hawkes Book Chapter One Free. Find Hear Best Fantasy Books And Novel For Reading And Download.
The Martyr's Stone by Nick Hawkes

Read Online The Martyr’s Stone by Nick Hawkes Book Chapter One

The wind sighed through the sedges like the mournful spirit of a long dead soul. But he could feel no breeze. The sedges that sang to him also shielded him from the wind, as he lay on his back in the icy bog beside the creek. The young man was vaguely aware of a chilly wetness seeping through his clothes, scalding his back. It didn’t matter. He would be dead soon. But dying was taking longer than he expected.

He’d set out in the moonlight on his mission – his final mission, and now the first hint of morning, the false dawn, was becoming evident.

This was a better way to die. Gentler. Earlier that night he’d hiked up to the top of the hill that overlooked the small island just offshore. The tiny hamlet of Second Valley below him down the hill to the right was fast asleep. A few streetlights shone bravely, including one on the jetty that thrust out into the bay. He’d thought that being night, he would be able to jump from the dreadful cliff edge into the blackness. But it wasn’t black. Moonlight kissed the jagged rocks below and highlighted the foaming crests of the waves as they crashed against the rocks. He’d stepped back in fright… and made his way back up the valley to put in motion his back-up plan.

And now it was nearly done.

His head lolled sideways. He could see strands of his long hair amongst the frosted moss, grass, and sedge. It did not feel as if it belonged to him at all. All sense of feeling had gone. But he could still smell the earth. It had the pungent odor of mud, dung, and cattle urine.

His mind was wandering in and out of reality. Disturbing images loomed out of his memory to confront him, to accuse and mock. He had failed in everything… and would be missed by no one.

Suddenly, he was aware through his drunken state of a warm breath across his cheeks, a snort, and a drooling dark nose looming down at him from above.

The young man blinked, but couldn’t lift his arm to protect himself.

It was a young calf. The animal skittered backward, deciding that caution was a better option than curiosity. Its action was enough to cause the calf’s mother to come trotting over. The cow saw the young man spread-eagled on his back beside the creek, put its head down and lunged, but stopped short of butting him.

The cow cared for its calf. A cow!

He would have laughed, if he could, at the irony.

Both cow and calf trotted off.

Then he died… or he thought he had, because what happened next was surreal.

St. Peter stood above him. He was carrying a staff and had hair so long that it almost reached to the belt strapped round a coarse woolen tunic. The bottom of the tunic splayed out like a skirt.

A skirt. That was funny. But he had jeans underneath. It was confusing. He didn’t know St. Peter wore jeans.

Then everything went black.

* * *

The boy’s pulse was weak and thready. He was barely alive. It was not surprising. The lad was dressed only in a thin windcheater and jeans… and his neck was cold to the touch. If the young man was to live, there was little time to lose.

Julian Alston heaved the boy over his shoulders in a fireman’s lift. He trapped the boy’s leg and forearm to his chest with one arm, picked up his staff with the other, and made his way along the track beside the creek. The track, such as it was, had been made by himself as a result of his routine walks.

The boy was disturbingly light, and he stank. His clothes had a sour smell that bore eloquent testimony to a lack of hygiene.

The track led him up the bank to his own small cottage. Its whitewashed stone walls were beginning to show up in the dawn light. Julian made his way through the vegetable garden, skirted around the house, and walked on over the closely cropped grass to a rusted gate. It opened with a shove from his hip. The next bit was treacherous. He had to cross the bridge across the creek, the Parananakooka. The creeks of the Fleurieu Peninsula all had wonderful-sounding aboriginal names.

Crossing the bridge was fraught with danger at any time, because it had been badly made from old railway sleepers and sections of Stobie poles – the ugly steel and concrete poles that held up power lines along the streets of South Australia. There were gaps between the posts, and you had to watch your footing – even more so in the half-light of the early morning.

The bridge kept him isolated from the world – even though there were enough cottages and houses around him to make up the small hamlet of Randalsea. The settlement was one-and-a-half miles from Second Valley – the village on the coast where the creek ran into the sea. In recent years, however, both settlements had become collectively known as ‘Second Valley’.

Julian loved the bridge and the isolation it gave him. He also loved the countryside round about. The English had colonized the area early in South Australia’s history and left a legacy of stone cottages and houses that resulted in Randalsea looking as if it had been transplanted from Cornwall. Although the settlement was only eighty miles south of the city of Adelaide, it was a different world. The Fleurieu Peninsula was a land of steep-sided hills, bisected by creeks lined with magnificent red-gum trees. Its coastline was spectacular – rocky and rugged. Steep cliffs only occasionally gave way to sandy coves. Seals loved to sunbathe on the sands of these beaches. Julian crossed the road and headed past Ellie’s little shop to the grand old house that stood on the corner by the main road. After mounting the steps to the bull-nosed veranda, he rapped on the door with his staff. As he did, he reflected ruefully that it was an ungodly hour to call on anyone. But Ellie’s husband, Stan, was a retired doctor.

* * *

After an interminable few minutes, Stan answered the door. He’d thrown an overcoat over his pajamas and was wearing slippers. Ellie stood behind him tying up her fluffy blue dressing gown.

Stan took in the scene immediately. He frowned and said without fuss, “Julian; what have we got?”

“Hypothermia. Barely alive.”

“Right. Let me help you lay him on the kitchen table.” Stan turned to his wife. “Ellie, run the bath. Tepid water. Not too hot. Then call the ambulance.”

Ellie hurried out of the room as Stan began to check the boy’s vital signs.

Julian looked on feeling helpless until he had the presence of mind to begin going through the pockets of the boy’s jeans, seeking anything that might tell them who he was. He found a plastic wallet and an empty pill-bottle. He read the label: Amytal.

Julian handed it to Stan. The doctor looked at it briefly, unscrewed the cap, and lifted it to his nose. “Dammit, it’s barbiturates sure enough. He’s probably taken an overdose. Breathing and blood pressure are going to be the problem – if the cold doesn’t kill him first.”

Julian nodded. “What can we do?”

“There’s no antidote, just activated charcoal. Fortunately, I’ve got some, but I’ll have to administer it through a naso-gastric tube.” He paused. “Inserting it is a tricky business, and I’ll need your help. Are you up for it?”

“Of course.”

“Right. Let’s get him into the bath first. I can insert the tube there. You take his shoulders. I’ll take his feet. Don’t bother taking the clothes off him. Speed is everything.”

As the young man lay in the tub that was still filling up around him, Julian couldn’t help but reflect that this was the first bath the boy had seen for some time. It was a pity he was not conscious enough to enjoy it.

Stan was kneeling beside the bath with the doctor’s bag open next to him. “Right Julian; lean him forward, but let his head fall back a little.”

Three minutes later, the tube was in place, and a dreadful-looking slurry of charcoal was being been poured into the end through a funnel.

When all was done, Julian stood up and stretched his cramped muscles.

Ellie was standing in the doorway of the bathroom.

He smiled apologetically at her. “Sorry to cause you drama, particularly so early in the morning.”

Ellie gave a grunt that might have been a laugh. “Thirty-five years as a doctor’s wife has taught me not to be surprised at anything.” She paused. “Where did you find him?”

“About two-hundred yards down the creek from my cottage.”

She shook her head. “He was lucky you found him.”

Julian was far from sure he’d found him in time, but he kept the thought to himself. Instead, he said, “Have you looked in the boy’s wallet for some identification?”

“No. I’ll do it now.”

Julian turned as Stan rocked back onto his heels and rose painfully to his feet. The doctor grunted. “We’ve done all we can. We can only keep him warm and monitor progress from this point on. The important thing is to keep him breathing.”

Julian nodded. “What’s the deal with this barbiturate?”

“Amytal, or amobarbital… Jimi Hendrix and Marilyn Monroe both committed suicide using it.”

Julian couldn’t think of anything to say.

Five minutes later, Ellie came back from the kitchen holding a small card. “I’ve found a government concession card which has a name on it. The boy’s name is Dillon Shiffer.” She paused. “I put a call through to the policeman on duty in Normanville.” She noticed Julian’s incomprehension. “It’s what we normally do in these situations,” she explained.

Stan appeared not to be listening. “Where’s that blasted ambulance?”

“It will be here soon, dear,” said Ellie soothingly.

Julian picked up the earlier thread of conversation. “You rang...” He left the question hanging in the air.

Ellie nodded. “Yes.” She paused. “Evidently, he’s wanted by the police.”

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