The rare discovery of a ship sunk during the time of the Trojan War has been found off the coast of Turkey, near Troy. Charlotte Dashiell is an American nautical archaeologist and thrilled to be part of the recovery team. The wreck may contain proof of her highly controversial theory about the Trojan War.
Charlotte is present when the Turkish government agent assigned to guard the site is murdered. Her possible involvement and a questionable connection to a private collector of black market relics bring her under suspicion. Atakan Vadim is the Turkish agent sent to investigate her. Unknown to either of them, the smuggler behind the murder plans to steal a valuable artifact and frame Charlotte for the theft…after they murder her.
As with her other books, Chris Karlsen has impeccably researched her topic. Golden Chariot is engaging and full of information and insight. I thoroughly enjoyed this smart, well-written story and am looking forward to reading more from this author.
“Dan Brown underwater! I thoroughly enjoyed this romantic thriller. Charlotte Dashiell, the heroine is a nautical archaeologist with an interesting and unique theory she’s trying to prove. I appreciated the imagination behind her theory. Charlotte engaged me from the beginning where she is caught on a sinking boat to the end of the story.”
Charlotte searched and couldn’t find Atakan. The schedule showed her diving with Gerard again. Atakan and the “pottery experts” had stayed in camp for the last two days. Refik assigned them lab work while they waited for Ursula to make her move. Charlotte wanted to see if Atakan and the “experts” would like to have breakfast together before she had to leave. She went to Refik’s office to ask if he knew where Atakan was.
She knocked. “Refik?”
Refik had the steel box with the broken lock and its relics on his desk. He was bent trying to arrange room in his office safe for the added artifacts.
Charlotte walked to the desk and fingered the broken lock. “Ursula’s work?”
“Yes. Atakan and his agents are in pursuit of her now.”
“Is Damla with her?”
“I don’t know. Atakan, the agents, and Ursula were already gone when I awoke. He had the Director call early and inform me of the circumstance.”
Guilt swamped Charlotte. She meant to tell Atakan she was as worried for his safety as he was hers. She meant to tell him be careful, don’t take unnecessary risks. Nick’s SWAT escapades were bad enough to deal with. The time never seemed right to tell Atakan. A pathetic excuse.
“Hand me the pieces, please,” Refik said.
Charlotte gave him the larger diptych first then the smaller pieces. Refik worked on his hands and knees wedging them into the safe.
Shouts and yells came from all sides of the camp as Talat threw open the office door. “Fire.”
Refik hurried to shut the safe. The three rushed from the office.
The backside of the kitchen and dining hall was an inferno. Fire consumed the framing posts and spread to the plywood walls. The summer sun had dried the inexpensive wood they used for the construction of all the buildings, making the supports like matchsticks. Where the fire had broken through the walls, flames were sucked inside and started to engulf the tables and chairs. The grass matting used for the roof was next.
The west wind blew sparks in the direction of the lab. They could lose the entire camp, but not the lab, not the artifacts.
By a stroke of luck, the Suraya was still docked and everyone was in camp. They broke up into groups. One brought stored water from different parts of the compound. The others formed fire lines, passing buckets of water hand-over-hand, dousing the flames. Rachel ran to the village where the locals kept a water truck filled for fire emergencies.
Charlotte and Uma dragged a water barrel that normally served to fill desalination tanks.
“The lab,” Uma yelled as they ran back for the second barrel.
Embers caught in the breeze had begun to land on the canvas roof. Charlotte shouted for Talat and Gerard. The two men took over handling the second water barrel. Charlotte and Uma ran to the lab and began moving cabinets and tanks of artifacts out to the open area of the camp.
“Dump the water tank for the showers,” Refik ordered, taking Charlotte’s place.
She nodded and grabbed an empty barrel from the fire line and ran with it to the showers. She positioned it against the back of the shower stall and started climbing the steps. Metal clamps on the side fastened the tank to crossbeam posts. Once the clamps were unhooked, she’d turn the tank and unscrew the top to let the water run into the barrel.
A loud whoosh came from the kitchen and a tall, black plume of smoke shot skyward. The roof was aflame.
She hesitated midway on the stairs at the sight.
A man’s large hand covered her mouth. His other hand brandished a gun.
With the cold barrel to her ear, he walked her backwards down the few steps to the ground.
Little-by-little his palm came away from her mouth.
She screamed and tried to break and run. She spun as he caught her by the arm and backhanded her across the cheek with a closed fist. Dazed, she staggered but stayed on her feet.
A second man wrapped his forearm around her throat and covered her mouth with his other hand.
Tischenko stepped in front of her. “Your screams won’t be heard. As you can see and hear…” He gestured to the burning kitchen. “Folks are busy elsewhere.”
The second man’s fleshy fingers forced her lips apart and pressed against her teeth. She managed to part her teeth the fraction she needed and bit down hard, drawing blood. He jerked his hand from her mouth but not his arm from her throat. He tightened the choke hold, cutting off most of the air to her lungs. Screaming was impossible.
Long ago, Nick told her, “If the only weapon you have is your body, then you make every move count.” He showed her good pain points to strike.
She stomped her heel down on the man’s foot. He relaxed the pressure on her throat. The distraction enabled her to wedge her hands under the man’s forearm. She pushed with all her strength to loosen his hold.
Tischenko backhanded her again. Stars filled her vision then faded.
“You recognize me?” Tischenko asked.
“I will tell my associate to let you speak if you do not try to scream.”
She opened her mouth ready to scream again.
“If you disobey, I will have Atakan tortured.”
The mention of Atakan stunned Charlotte into silence. Tischenko had Atakan? How? She knew he’d left with two other agents. Tischenko overpowered all three? She didn’t believe him.
“Liar,” she rasped.
“Bring her,” Tischenko told the man holding her. Tischenko covered the rocky path on the camp’s edge in several long strides. Her captor half carried, half dragged her along as she fought to break free.
Tischenko stopped behind a clump of trees between the rear of the living quarters and the cove.
“You can continue to fight or come along like a good girl.”
Charlotte’s father always said; never go willing with a kidnapper. Never. You’re better off forcing his hand there and then. He might kill you. He might not. But, if you go with him, you’re dead. In all likelihood, you’ll be tortured for hours or even days before he kills you. Go down fighting first.
“I’m not going anywhere with you.”
“Then I’ll kill your lover slowly. I’ll record his screams for you to hear. I’ll record him begging for death.”
Tischenko pulled a hunting knife from a calf pocket on his cargo pants and unsheathed it. He stood in front of her and put the tip of the blade to the corner of her eye.
“First I will take his eyes so he cannot see what torture is next, only anticipate it. Then,” Tischenko moved the knife to the first knuckle of her forefinger. “I will snip his fingers off.” He slid the blade across her finger, lightly, just enough to draw a thin line of blood. “One knuckle at a time.”
Charlotte’s body tensed and she clamped her teeth together. She concentrated on him, not on the sharp pain.
He moved to her second knuckle. “If he were to live, which he won’t, he wouldn’t be able to wipe his ass,” he said, chuckling.
She couldn’t contain her fear. It controlled her breathing which came in short, rapid pants. She winced, but refused to look away. She wouldn’t give him the additional victory of seeing her terror as he made another light slice.
“Next, I will castrate him, one ball, then the other, then a final whack and he is a woman. In the end, I will disembowel him and lay his intestines on his chest. You’d be surprised how long you can live with your guts spilled.”
A wave of nausea came and went with the picture he painted.
“I don’t believe you. You don’t have Atakan,” she challenged, trying not to sound terrified.
He sheathed the knife and shoved it back into his pocket. From his shirt pocket, he took out a Thuraya cell phone.
“Atakan’s phone,” he said, showing her the face.
“Bullshit, anyone can order that phone on the internet.”
“Such belligerence. I’m going to enjoy breaking you. This is Atakan’s security code.” Tischenko punched in a four digit sequence that was Damla’s code.
Charlotte racked her brain to remember if Atakan used a security code when he made calls. She hadn’t paid attention.
Tischenko put the phone near her ear.
She listened as Atakan talked to the Director. On another he spoke to someone at the Ministry about a report. Tischenko let her listen to call after call.
He has Atakan. She felt ill again.
“You’ll kill him, whether I go or not.” If he denied it, she’d know he was lying.
“True. Come, and I’ll let him keep his eyes and manhood.”
She had to go. If nothing else, it bought Atakan more time. If he wasn’t incapacitated, maybe, just maybe, she and Atakan could find a way to escape.