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Author: Lincoln Child
Douglas Preston
Publisher: Forge, 1997
Series: Pendergast: Book 2
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Horror
Sub-Genre Tags:
Avg Member Rating:
(4 reads / 2 ratings)


Hidden deep beneath Manhattan lies a warren of tunnels, sewers, and galleries, mostly forgotten by those who walk the streets above. There lies the ultimate secret of the Museum Beat. When two grotesquely deformed skeletons are found deep in the mud off the Manhattan shoreline, museum curator Margo Green is called in to aid the investigation. Margo must once again team up with police lieutenant D'Agosta and FBI agent Pendergast, as well as the brilliant Dr. Frock, to try and solve the puzzle. The trail soon leads deep underground, where they will face the awakening of a slumbering nightmare... in Reliquary.



Snow tested his regulator, checked both air valves, ran his hands along the slick neoprene of the suit. Everything was in order, just as it had been when he last checked it, sixty seconds before.

"Another five minutes," the Dive Sergeant said, cutting the launch to half speed.

"Great," came the sarcastic voice of Fernandez over the sound of the big diesel. "Just great."

Nobody else spoke. Already, Snow had noticed that small talk seemed to die away when the team neared a site.

He looked back over the stern, watching the froth of the Harlem River spread out behind the propeller in a brown wedge. The river was wide here, rolling sluggishly under the hot gray haze of the August morning. He turned his gaze to ward the shore, grimacing slightly as the rubber cowl pulled at the skin of his neck. Towering apartment buildings with broken windows. Ghostly shells of warehouses and factories. An abandoned playground. No, not quite abandoned: one child, swinging from a rusty frame.

"Hey, Divemaster," Fernandez's voice called to him. "Be sure you got your training diapers on."

Snow tugged at the ends of his gloves and continued looking toward the shore.

"Last time we let a virgin out on a dive like this," Fernandez continued, "he shit his suit. Christ, what a mess. We made him sit on the transom all the way back to base. And that was off Liberty Island, too. A frigging cakewalk compared to the Cloaca."

"Fernandez, shut up," the Sergeant said mildly.

Snow continued to gaze over the stern. When he'd come to Scuba from regular NYPD, he had made one big mistake: mentioning that he'd once worked a Sea of Cortez dive boat. Too late, he'd learned that several of the Scuba team had at one time been commercial divers laying cable, maintaining pipelines, working oil platforms. To them, divemasters like him were pampered, underskilled wimps who liked clear water and clean sand. Fernandez, in particular, wouldn't let him for get.

The boat leaned heavily to starboard as the Sergeant angled in closer to shore. He cut the power even further as they approached a thick cluster of riverfront projects. Suddenly, small, brick-lined tunnel came into view, breaking the monotony of the gray concrete facades. The Sergeant nosed the boat through the tunnel and out into the half-light beyond. Snow became aware of an indescribable smell wafting up from the disturbed waters. Tears sprang involuntarily to his eyes, and he stifled a cough. In the bow, Fernandez looked back, sniggering. Beneath Fernandez's open suit, Snow could see a shirt with the Police Scuba team's unofficial motto: We dive in shit and look for dead things. Only this time it wasn't a dead thing, but a massive wrapped brick of heroin, thrown off the Humboldt Rail Bridge during a Shootout with police the previous night.

The narrow canal was lined on both sides by concrete embankments. Ahead, a police launch was waiting beneath the railroad bridge, engine off, bobbing slightly in the striped shadows. Snow could see two people on board: the pilot and a heavyset man in a badly fitted polyester suit. He was balding and a wet cigar projected from his lips. He hiked up his pants, spat into the creek, and raised one hand toward them in greeting.

The Sergeant nodded toward the launch. "Look who's here."

"Lieutenant D'Agosta," one of the divers in the bow replied. "Must be bad."

"Anytime a cop is shot, it's bad," said the Sergeant.

The Sergeant killed the engine, swinging the stern around so the two launches drifted together. D'Agosta stepped back to speak with the dive team. As he moved, the police launch heeled over slightly under his shifting weight, and Snow could see that the water left an oily, greenish residue on the hull as it slid away.

"Morning," D'Agosta said. Normally ruddy-faced, in the darkness beneath the bridge the Lieutenant blinked back at them like a pale cave creature that shunned the light.

"Talk to me, sir," the Dive Sergeant replied, strapping a depth gauge to his wrist. "What's the deal?"

"The bust went bad," D'Agosta said. "Turns out it was just a messenger boy. He tossed the stuff off that bridge." He nodded upward toward the overhanging structure. "Then he shot up a cop and got his own ass aired out good. If we can find the brick, we can close this piece-of-shit case."

The Dive Sergeant sighed. "If the guy was killed, why call us out?"

D'Agosta shook his head. "What, you just gonna leave a six-hundred-grand brick of heroin down there?"

Snow looked up. Between the blackened girders of the bridge, he could see the burnt facades of buildings. A thousand dirty windows stared down at the dead river. Too bad, he thought, the messenger had to throw it into the Humboldt Kill, aka Cloaca Maxima, named after the great central sewer of ancient Rome. The Cloaca was so called because of its centuries-old accumulation of shit, toxic sludge, dead animals, and PCBs. A subway lumbered by above, shuddering and screeching. Beneath his feet the boat quivered, and the surface of the glistening thick water seemed to jiggle slightly, like gelatin that had begun to set.

"Okay, men," he heard the Sergeant say. "Let's get wet."

Snow busied himself with his suit. He knew he was a first-rate diver. Growing up in Portsmouth, practically living in the Piscataqua River, he'd saved a couple of lives over the years. Later, in the Sea of Cortez, he'd hunted shark, done technical diving below two hundred feet. Even so, he wasn't looking forward to this particular dip.

Though Snow had never been near it before, the team talked about the Cloaca often enough back at the base. Of all the foul places to dive in New York City, the Cloaca was the worst: worse than the Arthur Kill, Hell Gate, even the Gowanus Canal. Once, he'd heard, it had been a sizeable tributary of the Hudson, cutting through Manhattan just south of Harlem's Sugar Hill. But centuries of sewage, commercial construction, and neglect had turned it into a stagnant, unmoving ribbon of filth: a liquid trash can for everything imaginable.

Snow waited his turn to retrieve his oxygen tanks from the stainless-steel rack, then stepped toward the stern, shrugging them over his shoulders. He still was not used to the heavy, constricting feel of the dry suit. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the Sergeant approaching.

"All set?" came the quiet baritone.

"I think so, sir," Snow said. "What about the headlamps?"

The Sergeant stared at him blankly.

"These buildings cut out all the sunlight. We'll need lamps if we're going to see anything, right?"

The Sergeant grinned. "It wouldn't make any difference. The Cloaca's about twenty feet deep. Below that, there's ten, maybe fifteen feet of suspended silt. As soon as your flippers touch that silt, it balloons out like a dustbomb. You won't be able to see beyond your visor. Below the silt is thirty feet of mud. The brick'll be buried somewhere in that mud. Down there, you see with your hands."

He looked at Snow appraisingly, hesitating a moment. "Listen," he said in a low voice. "This won't be like those practice dives in the Hudson. I only brought you along because Cooney and Schultz are still in the hospital."

Snow nodded. The two divers each had gotten a case of the "blastos"--blastomycosis, a fungal infection that attacked the solid organs--while searching for a bullet-ridden body in a limo at the bottom of the North River the week before. Even with mandatory weekly blood work to screen for parasites, bizarre diseases ruined the health of divers every year.

"If you'd rather sit this one out, it's okay," the Sergeant continued. "You can stay here on deck, help with the guide ropes."

Snow looked over at the other divers as they strapped on their weight belts, snugged the zippers of their dry suits tight, let the lines over the sides. He remembered the first rule of the Scuba team: Every man dives. Fernandez, making a line fast to a cleat, looked back toward them and smirked knowingly.

"I'm diving, sir," Snow said.

The Sergeant stared at him for another long moment. "Remember basic training. Pace yourself. First time down in that muck, divers have a tendency to hold their breath. Don't do it; that's the fastest way to an embolism. Don't overinflate your suit. And, for Christ's sake, don't let go of the rope. In the mud, you forget which way is up. Lose the rope, and the next body we come looking for will be yours."

He pointed to the sternmost guide rope. "That'll be you."

Snow waited, slowing his breathing, while the mask was slipped over his head and the lines attached. Then, after a final check, he went over the side.

Even through the stifling, constrictive dry suit, the water felt strange. Viscous and syrupy, it didn't rush past his ears or eddy between his fingers. Pushing against it was an effort, like swimming in crankcase oil.

Tightening his grip on the guide rope, he allowed himself to sink a few feet below the surface. Already the keel of the launch was invisible overhead, swallowed by a miasma of tiny particles that filled the fluid around him. He looked around through the feeble, greenish light. Immediately in front of his face, he could see his gloved hand gripping the rope. At a greater distance, he could make out his other hand, outstretched, probing the water. An infinity of motes hung in the space between. He could not see below his feet: th...

Copyright © 1997 by Lincoln Child

Copyright © 1997 by Douglas Preston


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