Andy McDermott Kingdom of Darkness

ISBN 13: 9780755380725

Kingdom of Darkness

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9780755380725: Kingdom of Darkness
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Full of his trademark action, thrills and humour, this is Andy McDermott's most exciting novel to date and marks the 10th novel featuring his brilliant series leads, Nina Wilde and Eddie Chase. 1943 - Occupied Greece The SS unit's mission was simple: round up Jews for the concentration camps. But beneath an isolated farmhouse, they find a far greater bounty - a hidden shrine to Alexander the Great and an urn filled with water possessing mysterious qualities. The Nazis take the treasure in the name of Hitler and disappear... Present Day - Los Angeles Archaeologist Nina Wilde and her husband Eddie Chase are sought out by a young man, desperate to warn her about a planned raid on Alexander's newly-discovered tomb in Egypt. But before he can explain more, he is assassinated by a wanted Nazi war criminal - who has barely aged in seventy years. As Nina and Eddie search for answers, they discover that the most evil regime in history is threatening to rise again. But the Nazis seek more than power. They are also hunting for the greatest prize of all - immortality...

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About the Author:

Andy McDermott works as a freelance writer 'and occasional cartoonist' and in a previous incarnation was magazine editor for, amongst others, DVD Review and the iconoclastic film magazine Hotdog. Andy was born in West Yorkshire.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1

 

Los Angeles

 

71 Years Later

 

T

he Lamborghini Aventador Roadster tore through the intersection, the bright-orange supercar’s tires screaming. In its wake, two gleaming black Mercedes SLS AMG sports cars skidded around the corner, their V8 engines snarling like enraged beasts.

 

The gull-wing passenger door of the lead SLS swung upward. A man, face hidden behind a bandanna, leaned out. The malevolent little MAC-11 machine pistol in his hand barked, vivid spurts of flame longer than the weapon itself gouting from the barrel as he unleashed a spray of automatic fire at the Lamborghini.

 

The Aventador’s driver jerked the steering wheel to the left. The convertible whipped into a lane of oncoming traffic as sparks and dust spat up from the asphalt alongside it. An SUV rushed straight at it—

 

The driver swept up onto the sidewalk. Pedestrians screamed and leapt for safety. The Mercs continued their pursuit, the second car’s gull-wing opening to reveal another masked man . . . 

 

Holding an RPG-7 rocket launcher.

 

Danger behind—and ahead. The street was blocked by a tanker truck.

 

No way around it . . . 

 

But there was a way over it.

 

A panel van with a lowered rear ramp was parked at the curb, its interior empty save for some cardboard boxes. The driver swerved back onto the road, aiming his car directly at it—

 

“And . . . cut!”

 

The Aventador came to a rapid stop. Behind it, both AMGs also slowed, wheeling around ready for the next take.

 

Nina Wilde, standing beside a camera crane, responded to the action with a dismissive shrug. “Y’know, I don’t think they ever got above thirty miles per hour,” the redhead complained.

 

Her husband was rather more impressed. “Oh, come on,” said Eddie Chase, eyeing the Lamborghini with distinct automotive lust. “You’ve got to admit, being on a movie set is pretty cool.”

 

“Yeah, when something’s actually happening.” They had been on the imitation New York street for over an hour, and this was the first time the cameras had rolled.

 

Macy Sharif nodded in agreement. “Thank God for trailers,” said the younger woman, indicating a large and luxurious mobile home parked at the end of the back lot. “Grant’s is kitted out better than his own apartment. And he’s got a really nice apartment.”

 

“So you like life in Hollywood, then?” Eddie asked with a grin. “Being a model’s better than being an archaeologist?” The Englishman glanced sidelong at his wife, the grin becoming more cheeky. “Always thought it must be.” She jabbed him with her elbow in response.

 

“I still am an archaeologist,” Macy insisted. “I got my degree—yay!—and I’m starting on my master’s soon. But . . . yeah,” she admitted, smiling, “being a model was cool. I’ll show you the magazine later. I think you’ll like it.”

 

“I’m sure I will,” said Eddie.

 

Nina gave him a teasing look. “You’d better not like it too much. You’re wearing clothes in it, ­aren’t you, Macy?”

 

“Of course I am!” she replied.

 

Nina looked her friend up and down. The dark-haired young Floridian was in cutoff denim shorts and a midriff-baring T-shirt, both garments tight enough to show off her toned figure. “More than you are now?”

 

A moment’s consideration. “Maybe . . .”

 

The Lamborghini pulled up in front of them and its door scissored open. Grant Thorn climbed out and called to a man in a baseball cap. “How was that, Mikey?”

 

The director was reviewing various camera angles on a bank of monitors. “Lookin’ good, lookin’ good . . . yeah, print it.”

 

“And you can see it’s really me driving?”

 

“Yeah, Grant, we can tell it’s you.”

 

“Awesome.” The tanned actor gave the director a thumbs-up, then embraced Macy, lifting her off her feet and spinning around with a “Hey, babe!” before turning to his guests. “So? What d’you think?”

 

“That was . . . cool,” said Nina politely.

 

Eddie snorted. “Don’t listen to her, she doesn’t appreciate action movies.”

 

“Hey! I like good action movies,” she objected.

 

“Like mine, huh?” said Grant.

 

“Er—”

 

“So what happens next?” Eddie cut in before Nina could offer any film criticism. He gestured at the van. “Hit the ramp, jump over the truck?”

 

Grant nodded. “You got it, man. And one of the bad guys shoots a rocket, which hits the tanker, and the whole thing blows up while the Lambo’s going over it. Boom! Obviously they’re not using the real car for that, and the stunt guy’s gonna be driving, but I’d totally do it if they’d let me.”

 

Nina looked unconvinced. “Yeah, totally.”

 

“Can’t wait to see it,” said Eddie.

 

“Afraid you’ll have to, dude,” Grant told him, with a slightly condescending chuckle. “It’ll take them, like, four hours to set everything up. I’m actually done for the day—the second unit takes over from here.”

 

“Wait, that’s your whole day’s work?” said Nina. “Driving a car down a fake street for thirty seconds?”

 

“No, man, I did more than that!” Grant replied, slightly affronted. “I did my in-car close-ups before you guys got here. Mikey wanted the right light so I’d look my best.” He turned his head to show off his blandly handsome profile.

 

“Well, yeah, you definitely need a break after working your arse off like that,” said Eddie.

 

As always, the sarcasm went clean over Grant’s perfectly gelled hair. “I know, dude, I know. So, anyway, how are you guys? Macy tells me you’re on a big vacation—like a world tour or something?”

 

“You could say that,” Nina replied.

 

“Cool! Where’ve you been?”

 

Eddie started counting off places on his fingers. “So far? Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, Italy, France, Spain, saw my family in England . . . We just started a bit of a West Coast tour here in the States. Did the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, and after LA we’re going on to San Francisco and up to Seattle.”

 

“That’s a lot of travel, dude,” said Grant, impressed. “So what made you decide to do it? You two are usually total workaholics. Well, you are, Nina,” he added with a laugh.

 

She didn’t return it. “We just wanted a break,” she said quietly. The faint sigh underlying her words attracted a curious look from Macy.

 

The actor didn’t notice, though. “And when did you kick all this off?”

 

“Two months ago,” Eddie told him.

 

“Two months! Hope you remembered to get all your frequent flier miles!” Grant laughed again. “But while you’re in LA, everything’s on me, okay? How do you like the limo?”

 

The movie star had arranged for a stretch limousine to transport the couple around the city—though its styling was not what Nina would have chosen. “It’s, ah, fine,” she said. “Thanks for organizing it for us. It beats taking cabs everywhere. Or having a rental car.”

 

Eddie huffed. “We could have been cruising around California in a Mustang GT500 convertible, but nooo . . .

 

“Yeah, I remember how much you like your fast cars, man!” Grant said. “You know, that time you drove me through New York at, like, two hundred miles an hour? It actually helped my acting. When I did Nitrous 2, whenever I was driving I just remembered how it felt, Method-style! I got some great reviews for that, so thanks, dude.”

 

Even the star’s best reviews tended to feature the word wooden, so Eddie didn’t want to imagine what his bad ones were like. “Don’t you mean Ni-two-rous?” he asked, grinning. The predecessor of the movie currently shooting had been given the rather awkward moniker Ni2rous.

 

Grant waved a hand. “Don’t get me started, man. Leno and Letterman both gave me crap for that when I was promoting it. I don’t pick the titles.”

 

“You can’t pronounce them either.”

 

“Dude, enough!”

 

“At least you won’t have any problems with this one,” said Nina. She indicated a stack of equipment cases, which were labeled simply nitrous 3.

 

“Nah, that’s just the working title,” said Grant. “We’re getting a focus group to decide on the coolest option. Oh, hey, what do you think? The two titles we’ve got are . . .” He paused for dramatic effect. “Nitrous 3: Overdrive Or alternatively . . . Nitrous 3: Maximum Boost Which one’s best?”

 

“I don’t think either of them fully captures the subtle nuances of the series,” said Nina, arching an eyebrow.

 

“Yeah,” Eddie agreed. “It should be something more like Nitrous 3: Tits and Explosions! With an exclamation mark.”

 

“It’s a PG-13, so no boobies, man,” Grant said with regret. Macy gave her boyfriend a huffy pout. “I like the exclamation thing, though. I’ll suggest that.”

 

“Nitrous 3: Balderdash,” Nina added under her breath. “Nitrous 3: Physics, Schmysics . . .”

 

“Anyway,” said the actor, “give me five minutes to get changed and we’ll go have lunch. There’s something I want to talk to you both about.”

 

Husband and wife exchanged looks. “What is it?” Nina asked.

 

“Spoilers, man,” Grant said with a cocky grin as he headed for his trailer. “You’ll find out soon.”

 

It was nearer ten minutes than five, but Grant eventually emerged, having changed from his character’s costume of ultratight jeans and white T-shirt into a blue Italian suit and a pair of sunglasses. “Very stylish,” said Nina approvingly. As much as she loved Eddie, his usual outfit of considerably cheaper and looser T-shirt and jeans, allied with a scuffed black leather jacket, was not exactly high fashion.

 

“Thanks,” Grant replied, beaming. “Thought I oughta look smart if we’re talking business.”

 

Another exchange of puzzled glances. “What business?” demanded Eddie.

 

“I’ll tell you soon. Come on, let’s take a ride.” Walking arm in arm with Macy, Grant led the couple to a golf cart. The actor at the wheel, they drove off.

 

Nina looked up at the building façades as they cruised past. “It’s amazing. They look so real.”

 

“They are real,” Eddie said with a mocking smile. “They don’t do everything with CGI yet.”

 

“You know what I mean. They’ve done a really good job of distilling New York. I know it’s just painted plaster, but it’s still quite impressive how realistic it is.”

 

“Hey, if you want to see something from New York that’s really impressive,” Grant piped up, “check this out.” He turned at the next intersection, the freestanding four- and five-story mock-up buildings giving way to flatter frontages wrapped around the exterior of a soundstage.

 

Macy looked over her shoulder at Nina. “You’ll love this,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. It’s kinda freaky.”

 

“What is?” Nina asked.

 

“You’ll see,” said Grant. The golf cart pulled up at a ramp leading to the soundstage door, outside which was stationed a uniformed security guard. “Hey, my man!” called the actor as he climbed out. “Showing my friends the set. That cool with you?”

 

The guard’s expression suggested that it wasn’t, but within the walls of a film studio, nobody dared challenge the wanderlust of an A-list star. “No problem, Mr. Thorn,” he said through his teeth as he proffered a clipboard. “If they’ll sign in here, please?”

 

“Come on, come on,” Grant said excitedly. Macy, Nina, and Eddie scribbled their names, then followed him inside.

 

A strong scent of paint and fresh sawdust greeted them, the thwack of someone hammering nails echoing through the cavernous chamber. Before them was a huge wall, a mass of wooden panels supported by metal scaffolding and beams of rough raw pine that stretched almost to the lighting gantry high above. Nina had to tip her head back to take in its whole height. “What is it?”

 

“You’ll know when you see it. Come on, around here.” Grant led them along the stage’s side, passing several workmen. He waved to them in greeting. “My man! How you doing? Dude, good to see you. You too, guy. Hey, dude.”

 

“You know them all?” Nina asked when they were past.

 

“Not a one,” replied Grant with a shrug. “I do two or three movies a year, and there are, like, six hundred new people working on each of them. Keeps ’em all happy if I say hi, though.” He paused at a set of double doors in the great wall. “Okay, this is it. Go on in, Nina.”

 

Intrigued, Nina advanced through the doors, walking into—

 

“Oh, wow,” she gasped.

 

For a moment, she felt a bizarre sense of dislocation, as if she had traveled over two thousand miles in a single step. The room she had entered was very familiar: the lobby of the General Assembly building at the United Nations in New York. Three floors of elegantly curved white balconies overlooked the checkerboard floor of the public space, light through the tall ranks of windows opposite reflecting off the gleaming replica of Sputnik suspended overhead.

 

Only . . . it wasn’t quite right. Everything was compacted, squeezed down in scale, and the view of Manhattan outside was frozen in two dimensions. The corridor behind the reception desk that should have led deeper into the building was abruptly truncated by a green curtain. Even the light from outside was subtly wrong, the harsh glare of studio lamps instead of the warmer, more diffuse tones of sunlight.

 

She looked back at her companions. Eddie appeared impressed by the replica, while Grant and Macy were grinning with anticipation. “So?” said Grant. “You like it?”

 

“Isn’t it cool?” added Macy. “It’s just like being in the actual UN!”

 

“Yeah, it’s pretty amazing,” Nina replied, turning to take it all in. “It’s smaller than the real thing, though.”

 

Grant nodded. “Yeah, they had to squish everything to fit it into the stage. It’ll look fine on camera, though. Put the right lens on, and they can make a broom closet look like a ballroom.”

 

“So what happens in here?” asked Eddie. “If it’s for Nitrous 3: Shit Explodes, I don’t suppose you’ll be delivering any long speeches about world peace.”

 

“Nah, nothing boring like that, dude,” said Grant cheerfully. He pointed toward the main entrance. “I’m gonna smash thro...

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