Murder on Elbrus Sneak Peek
MURDER ON ELBRUS PROLOGUE
I was in the Ice Flow again. Diana Maurasi, anchor of the Sodoc News Service evening news, was with me along with Peer Borgen, renowned European Alpine climber and guide.
“Scott,” Diana said. “I have to stop.”
We were descending from near the summit of Everest where we’d been caught in a terrible storm. She looked exhausted, as exhausted as I felt.
“Not here,” Peer cautioned. “The ice is soft. We must keep going.”
The Ice Flow is a great ocean of white that slowly crept down the mountain from just above Base Camp. Passing through its treacherous corridors was the most dangerous part of the climb and descent. Over the decades it claimed more lives than any other cause.
We followed the pathway that had been carefully carved from the ice and snow but now in the afternoon sun, our way had turned glassy on the ice and the snow gave beneath our feet like fluffy cotton. All about us the walls of blue ice leaned towards us precariously and everywhere the ice strained and groaned.
“We have to keep moving, Diana,” I said. “We’re only halfway across.”
Just ahead was an enormous snow bridge, the largest in the Ice Flow over which the route took us. The day had turned abnormally hot and I worried it was no longer safe.
“Look!” Peer said, pointing ahead of us. Across the snow bridge stood Gody Tshering, the Gurkha sent to kill us all. Beneath his dark goggles he grinned in anticipation. In his hand he brandished a kukri, the peculiarly curved knife of his people.
“Why is he here?” I asked.
Diana came to me and I took her in my arms. “I’m frightened,” she said.
“I’ll talk to him,” Peer said.
“Peer, he has a knife,” I said.
The Norwegian shrugged. “It is nothing. You will see.”
Peer set out over the natural bridge, moving in his athletic certainty. Beneath him the blue expanse of the crevice faded to an ebony abyss. A single misstep and he’d plunge to certain death.
On the opposite side Peer stopped and spoke to Gody. I could hear their voices but not their words. Peer gestured towards us. Gody shook his head. He said something which caused Peer to grin, then he looked over at us. “See you below,” he called out, then set off alone.
“I think I should talk to him too, Scott,” Diana said as she pulled out of my arms. “Peer had no trouble with him. He only wants you.” Then she set out across the snow bridge, moving as surely as had Peer. Once across she spoke to Gody, then a moment later waved to me and left for Base Camp, joining Peer who placed his arm about her.
Why had they abandoned me? What had I ever done to them?
I couldn’t turn back though I wanted to. There was nowhere to go in that direction except to the summit and I’d just barely escaped from there. Behind me a wall of ice collapsed and the bridge shook with its force. I glanced to the rear and saw my way was blocked. I had no choice. I started across.
Gody came to meet me, knife in hand. I lifted my ice ax in defense.
“I have been waiting for you,” he said. “I missed you on top but now I have you.” He lunged towards me and I swung with the ax, missing him, nearly falling as I lost my balance.
He came at me again and I backed up, wondering if the bridge would support the weight of two as we fought. I swung with the ice ax but again to no avail. Then Gody lunged at me, and seized me in his grip. I could smell his hot breath on my face.
We fell onto the snow, rolling first one way, then the other, some mutual instinct keeping us from falling into the crevice. Across the bridge I heard cheering. I caught a glimpse and saw Diana and Peer shouting encouragement to me. Diana was clapping her hands and jumping up and down in excitement.
I could not escape Gody. I reached for his throat but before my hand could grip him he said, “Now.” At that same moment he plunged the knife into me.
Searing pain engulfed me and the ice ax dropped from my hand. I cried out but no sound came from my throat. The pain was excruciating.
Gody stabbed me again and again I felt the pain but no sound came from me. Just then the snow bridge trembled, then abruptly fell away beneath us. Snow engulfed me and I felt Gody slip away, laughing as he did.
I fell for a very long time. My stomach caught in my throat as if I were on a rapidly descending elevator or a diving airplane. I thought I would fall forever then I felt the sides of the ice crevice gradually close in on me. I slowed, then stopped. I reached to each side and pushed at the ice. I was unable to free myself. I was trapped far below the surface.
The snow was gone. All around me was black. I looked up towards the sky and spotted Gody
There was nothing for me to grab hold of. I could see no way to get out of the ice.
Again I wondered why had Diana and Peer abandoned me.
From deep within the ice I felt a moan and a pain shot through my legs as the walls shifted. The ice held me even more tightly. It moved and I felt its enormous force as it slowly began to crush me. I pushed against it to no effect. I screamed, then screamed again, and this time a voice came from far way, distant and remote.
“Mr. Devlon? Mr. Devlon? Are you all right, sir?”
I opened my eyes. It was the flight attendant.
“You shouted,” she said with a light Russian accent. “I think you had a bad dream.” She looked concerned.
“I’m fine,” I said, licking my parched lips. “Sorry if I bothered anyone.”
She looked relieved. “We are on final approach. Please fasten your seat belt.”
The plane was banking and through the window I could see the valley with its city, and not far in the distance the snowy twin peaks of Mt. Elbrus.
Across the aisle a young boy was staring at me. His mother pulled him back, giving me a sharp look as she did.