Katherine Solomon had always been a prudent driver, but now she was pushing her Volvo at over ninety as she fled blindly up the Suitland Parkway. Her trembling foot had been lodged on the accelerator for a full mile before her panic began to lift. She now realized her uncontrollable shivering was no longer solely from fear.
The wintry night air was gushing through her shattered window, buffeting her body like an arctic wind. Her stockinged feet were numb, and she reached down for her spare pair of shoes, which she kept beneath the passenger seat. As she did, she felt a stab of pain from the bruise on her throat, where the powerful hand had latched on to her neck.
The man who had smashed through her window bore no resemblance to the blond-haired gentleman whom Katherine knew as Dr. Christopher Abaddon. His thick hair and smooth, tanned complexion had disappeared. His shaved head, bare chest, and makeup-smeared face had been unveiled as a terrifying tapestry of tattoos.
She heard his voice again, whispering to her in the howl of wind outside her broken window. Katherine, I should have killed you years ago . . . the night I killed your mother.
Katherine shivered, feeling no doubt. That was him. She had never forgotten the look of fiendish violence in his eyes. Nor had she ever forgotten the sound of her brothers single gunshot, which had killed this man, propelling him off a high ledge into the frozen river below, where he plummeted through the ice and never resurfaced. Investigators had searched for weeks, never finding his body, and finally decided it had been washed away by the current out to the Chesapeake Bay.
They were wrong, she now knew. He is still alive.
And hes back.
Katherine felt angst-ridden as the memories flooded back. It was almost exactly ten years ago. Christmas Day. Katherine, Peter, and their motherher entire familywere gathered at their sprawling stone mansion in Potomac, nestled on a two-hundred-acre wooded estate with its own river running through it.
As was tradition, their mother worked diligently in the kitchen, rejoicing in the holiday custom of cooking for her two children. Even at seventy-five years of age, Isabel Solomon was an exuberant cook, and tonight the mouthwatering smells of roast venison, parsnip gravy, and garlic mashed potatoes wafted through the house. While Mother prepared the feast, Katherine and her brother relaxed in the conservatory, discussing Katherines latest fascinationa new field called Noetic Science. An unlikely fusion of modern particle physics and ancient mysticism, Noetics had absolutely captivated Katherines imagination.
Physics meets philosophy.
Katherine told Peter about some of the experiments she was dreaming up, and she could see in his eyes that he was intrigued. Katherine felt particularly pleased to give her brother something positive to think about this Christmas, since the holiday had also become a painful reminder of a terrible tragedy.
Peters son, Zachary.
Katherines nephews twenty-first birthday had been his last. The family had been through a nightmare, and it seemed that her brother was only now finally learning how to laugh again.
Zachary had been a late bloomer, frail and awkward, a rebellious and angry teenager. Despite his deeply loving and privileged upbringing, the boy seemed determined to detach himself from the Solomon establishment. He was kicked out of prep school, partied hard with the celebrati, and shunned his parents exhaustive attempts to provide him firm and loving guidance.
He broke Peters heart.
Shortly before Zacharys eighteenth birthday, Katherine had sat down with her mother and brother and listened to them debating whether or not to withhold Zacharys inheritance until he was more mature. The Solomon inheritancea centuries-old tradition in the familybequeathed a staggeringly generous piece of the Solomon wealth to every Solomon child on his or her eighteenth birthday. The Solomons believed that an inheritance was more helpful at the beginning of someones life than at the end. Moreover, placing large pieces of the Solomon fortune in the hands of eager young descendants had been the key to growing the familys dynastic wealth.
In this case, however, Katherines mother argued that it was dangerous to give Peters troubled son such a large sum of money. Peter disagreed.
The Solomon inheritance, her brother had said, is a family tradition that should not be broken. This money may well force Zachary to be more responsible.
Sadly, her brother had been wrong.
The moment Zachary received the money, he broke from the family, disappearing from the house without taking any of his belongings. He surfaced a few months later in the tabloids:
TRUST FUND PLAYBOY LIVING EUROPEAN HIGH LIFE.
The tabloids took joy in documenting Zacharys spoiled life of debauchery. The photos of wild parties on yachts and drunken disco stupors were hard for the Solomons to take, but the photos of their wayward teen turned from tragic to frightening when the papers reported Zachary had been caught carrying cocaine across a border in Eastern Europe: SOLOMON MILLIONAIRE IN TURKISH PRISON.
The prison, they learned, was called Soganlika brutal F-class detention center located in the Kartal district outside of Istanbul. Peter Solomon, fearing for his sons safety, flew to Turkey to retrieve him. Katherines distraught brother returned empty-handed, having been forbidden even to visit with Zachary. The only promising news was that Solomons influential contacts at the U.S. State Department were working on getting him extradited as quickly as possible.
Two days later, however, Peter received a horrifying international phone call. The next morning, headlines blared: SOLOMON HEIR MURDERED IN PRISON.
The prison photos were horrific, and the media callously aired them all, even long after the Solomons private burial ceremony. Peters wife never forgave him for failing to free Zachary, and their marriage came to an end six months later. Peter had been alone ever since.
It was years later that Katherine, Peter, and their mother, Isabel, were gathered quietly for Christmas. The pain was still a presence in their family, but mercifully it was fading with each passing year. The pleasant rattle of pots and pans now echoed from the kitchen as their mother prepared the traditional feast. Out in the conservatory, Peter and Katherine were enjoying a baked Brie and relaxed holiday conversation.
Then came an utterly unexpected sound.
Hello, Solomons, an airy voice said behind them.
Startled, Katherine and her brother spun to see an enormous muscular figure stepping into the conservatory. He wore a black ski mask that covered all of his face except his eyes, which shone with feral ferocity.
Peter was on his feet in an instant. Who are you?! How did you get in here?!
I knew your little boy, Zachary, in prison. He told me where this key was hidden. The stranger held up an old key and grinned like a beast. Right before I bludgeoned him to death.
Peters mouth fell open.
A pistol appeared, aimed directly at Peters chest. Sit.
Peter fell back into his chair.
As the man moved into the room, Katherine was frozen in place. Behind his mask, the mans eyes were wild like those of a rabid animal.
Hey! Peter yelled, as if trying to warn their mother in the kitchen. Whoever you are, take what you want, and get out!
The man leveled his gun at Peters chest. And what is it you think I want?
Just tell me how much, Solomon said. We dont have money in the house, but I can
The monster laughed. Do not insult me. I have not come for money. I have come tonight for Zacharys other birthright. He grinned. He told me about the pyramid.
Pyramid? Katherine thought in bewildered terror. What pyramid?
Her brother was defiant. I dont know what youre talking about.
Dont play dumb with me! Zachary told me what you keep in your study vault. I want it. Now.
Whatever Zachary told you, he was confused, Peter said. I dont know what youre talking about!
No? The intruder turned and aimed the gun at Katherines face. How about now?
Peters eyes filled with terror. You must believe me! I dont know what it is you want!
Lie to me one more time, he said, still aiming at Katherine, and I swear I will take her from you. He smiled. And from what Zachary said, your little sister is more precious to you than all your
Whats going on?! Katherines mother shouted, marching into the room with Peters Browning Citori shotgunwhich she aimed directly at the mans chest. The intruder spun toward her, and the feisty seventy-five-year-old woman wasted no time. She fired a deafening blast of pellets. The intruder staggered backward, firing his handgun wildly in all directions, shattering windows as he fell and crashed through the glass doorway, dropping the pistol as he fell.
Peter was instantly in motion, diving on the loose handgun. Katherine had fallen, and Mrs. Solomon hurried to her side, kneeling beside her. My God, are you hurt?!
Katherine shook her head, mute with shock. Outside the shattered glass door, the masked man had clambered to his feet and was running into the woods, clutching his side as he ran. Peter Solomon glanced back to make sure his mother and sister were safe, and seeing they were fine, he held the pistol and raced out the door after the intruder.
Katherines mother held her hand, trembling. Thank heavens youre okay. Then suddenly her mother pulled away. Katherine? Youre bleeding! Theres blood! Youre hurt!
Katherine saw the blood. A lot of blood. It was all over her. But she felt no pain.
Her mother frantically searched Katherines body for a wound. Where does it hurt!
Mom, I dont know, I dont feel anything!
Then Katherine saw the source of the blood, and she went cold. Mom, its not me . . . She pointed to the side of her mothers white satin blouse, where blood was running freely, and a small tattered hole was visible. Her mother glanced down, looking more confused than anything else. She winced and shrank back, as if the pain had just hit her.
Katherine? Her voice was calm, but suddenly it carried the weight of her seventy-five years. I need you to call an ambulance.
Katherine ran to the hall phone and called for help. When she got back to the conservatory, she found her mother lying motionless in a pool of blood. She ran to her, crouching down, cradling her mothers body in her arms.
Katherine had no idea how much time had passed when she heard the distant gunshot in the woods. Finally, the conservatory door burst open, and her brother, Peter, rushed in, eyes wild, gun still in his hand. When he saw Katherine sobbing, holding their lifeless mother in her arms, his face contorted in anguish. The scream that echoed through the conservatory was a sound Katherine Solomon would never forget.