Archaeologist Annja Creed narrowly escapes an attack by unknown figures when she tries to collect a package near her loft. She later learns that the sender--an old colleague named Fellini--has been brutally murdered.
Fellini had been researching the Hammer of Thor, the Norse god of thunder, and had linked it to a Viking warrior and a twelfth-century Latvian village. A coded message in Fellini's package leads Annja on a wild chase along the canals of Venice to Latvia for more clues to an ancient treasure. Rumored to be hidden deep in the forests of Latvia for nine hundred years, this fabled prize is also sought by a ruthless corps of mercenaries. And they will do anything to find it. Including killing Annja Creed.
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July 09, 2007
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Excerpt from God of Thunder by Alex Archer
The four men approached Annja Creed like a well-oiled machine. Their actions told her they'd done this before.
She didn't break stride or change direction, heading toward the Mailboxes & Stuff store that she used to mail and receive packages. In her career as an archaeologist, she often received items for study and sometimes for authentication. A handful of museums and private collectors paid her to do certificates of authenticity on items they were putting on display.
Although everything added up, payment for the certificates wasn't much. However, the benefits included free access to those museums and private collections, and the goodwill of curators who were valuable sources of information when she was doing research.
The four men moved with determination, without speaking. They were young and athletic, casually dressed and instantly forgettable. She guessed that they had military training.
Everything's already been planned, Annja thought. Adrenaline spiked within her, elevating her heart rate and her senses. She stayed within the flow of the lunch crowd flooding out of the buildings onto the street. Everyone was hurrying to try to make it back on time.
She knew the four men had been waiting for her, and wondered if they had followed her from her loft. She hadn't been home in weeks. A dig in Florida had consumed her and given her a brief respite from the dregs of winter that still hovered over New York. She'd quickly dropped off luggage and headed back out.
Layered in dark winter clothing--a thigh-length navy wool coat, sweater over a long-sleeved top, and Levi's, with a knitted black beanie and wraparound blue-tinted sunglasses, her backpack slung over one shoulder--Annja figured the team had watched her closely to recognize her. But at five feet ten and with chestnut-colored hair that dipped below her shoulders, she forgot she had a tendency to stand out in a crowd.
Nikolai, the manager at the shipping business, had left messages with her answering service to let her know she had a number of packages waiting for pickup.
So why hadn't they picked her up at the airport? Annja mulled that over and realized that they weren't law-enforcement personnel. Maybe they hadn't wanted to draw attention to themselves.
Then why hadn't they nabbed her at her loft? If they knew about Mailboxes & Stuff, they surely knew where she lived. That thought led to a whole new line of questions.
Although it stunk to the high heavens, the situation made Annja curious, and curiosity had driven her through most of her life.
Annja took her cell phone out of her pocket and punched in numbers.
"Mailboxes & Stuff," a friendly male voice answered.
"This is Nikolai. How may I help you?" His Russian accent was charming, but Annja knew it was fake. Nikolai had been born and raised in Brooklyn.
"Ah, Annja, it is so good to hear from you." Nikolai lowered his voice to a conspiratorial tone. "You would not believe what has been going on."
Annja stopped at the newsstand at the corner across the street from Mailboxes & Stuff. She waited in line as customers ahead of her picked out newspapers, magazines and snacks.
Checking the reflections in the windows of the nearby coffee shop, Annja watched the four men attempt to lose themselves in the crowd of pedestrians. If she hadn't already made them, she knew she wouldn't have noticed them.
"So tell me," Annja invited.
"A man came into the store," Nikolai said. "He showed me government credentials and claimed that he needed a package that was supposed to be delivered to you."
The newsstand owner dealt with his clientele quickly. The line shrank faster than Annja wanted.
"What kind of credentials?" Annja asked.
"I don't know. I didn't get a good look. They tried to intimidate me. Something with a photograph and badge."
"Do you remember his name?"
"Agent Smith." Nikolai cackled. "I thought it was very humorous. I asked him if he'd seen The Matrix."
Nikolai was a die-hard science fiction fan. He spoke Klingon and was constantly trying to teach phrases to Annja.
"What did he do?" Annja asked.
"He was not amused. Then he threatened me. So I told him he had to have a court order before I gave any package to him. He didn't produce a court order," Nikolai said. "So I called the police."
"You called the police?"
"Sure. I'm not going to play around with them. You get expensive things here, Annja, but you're not the only client I have that does."
"Right. So what did Agent Smith do?"
"What did he do? He left is what he did."
"Did the police come?"
"An hour or so later, sure. Evidently my call wasn't very important."
"Did you file a report?"
"I did. But I kept your name out of it. I just told them that someone using government ID wanted to go through the packages."
"What did the police say?" Only two people separated Annja from the newsstand vendor.