Shroud of the Healer [A Matt Rider Detective Thriller]
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by Christopher Wright
Description: Archbishop Valdieri from New York is impatient to get the Pope to the Clinic of the Little Sisters of Grace in Avignon, France, for treatment. The surgeons at the American-owned clinic are eager to treat the Pope, but the Archbishop suspects there's a problem. Matt Rider, an English PI, is on holiday in Avignon with his girlfriend Zoé. They get talking to a local nurse in Avignon. She tells them that all is not well at the American clinic up on the hill. Matt thinks the nurse is crazy--until her husband calls with devastating news. To investigate the clinic, Matt needs some bugs and a phone tap. But he doesn't know that the national security forces are involved, and he doesn't know that one of the surgeons will soon want Zoé dead. Shroud of the Healer is the second Matt Rider detective thriller.
eBook Publisher: Hard Shell Word Factory, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: January 2005
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [330 KB]
Reading time: 209-292 min.
MATT REACHED FOR the key ring as it spun towards him through the air. "Not another inside job?"
"Just the one, kiddo. A small painting in an empty house. I've even got a photo of it. Take my BMW."
Matt turned the house door and alarm keys in his hand and studied them suspiciously. "You sure the house is empty?"
Ken Habgood nodded in encouragement. "Planning, that's what it's all about. But keep your eyes open and be careful. Believe me, the house owner can be trouble."
"Sounds much more fun than going to the south of France," observed Matt dryly.
The tall man behind the desk smiled a row of large teeth. "You sound down in the dumps today, kiddo. Most people would be looking forward to their summer break."
Matt wasn't going to tell Ken about his worries over Zoé Champanelle. He was now wondering if Zoé would be there when he got back after work. He'd been playing Shostakovich last night, the Fourth String Quartet, loudly. The music helped control his pent-up emotions. Zoé had been in the bedroom trying to play a Debussy Arabesque on her flute, and had objected more forcibly than usual.
She was packing when he left for work this morning, but maybe not for their trip to Avignon. She might be going home to her parents in France. Something had been on Zoé's mind for weeks, causing stupid arguments. He felt angry with himself now, but not guilty. Zoé had no right to be disapproving of his work.
He tossed the key ring to the ceiling and caught it with one hand. "I hope you've done your homework."
Ken closed his eyes and sighed noisily. "It will be okay," he promised, but with little conviction. "Leave the painting in the back of my car."
Matt Rider was already wondering why he'd bothered to come to work at all. There must be better ways for someone in his thirties to spend his time. He should be off this evening to France. But he wouldn't go without Zoé.
* * *
THE HOUSE STOOD at the end of a short drive, its front door in serious need of paint, and the curtain linings gray with years of grime. Scattered sheets of newspaper hung amongst the shrubs. This was not the residence of a house-proud person. Matt made a quick assessment of the situation. He could see no one in the windows. Perhaps Ken was right; perhaps the owner had no idea he was coming.
The open ground gave no cover. He wouldn't walk. He needed wheels to leave quickly. He started to sweat as he inched Ken's maroon BMW towards the black gates. Every move had to be made without hesitation. There were never second chances.
He rehearsed the procedure once more in his mind. Drive confidently up to the house, ring the bell, wait one minute, ring again, wait, unlock the front door, disable the house alarm with the small key, grab the painting, jump in the car, start the engine—then floor the pedal. It was routine stuff. He'd done it before, sometimes with the house alarm sounding and the strobe light flashing. The keys in his pocket felt reassuring. There would be no problems today. According to Ken.
Just take the painting and go. Jobs like this worried Zoé, and could be the cause of recent arguments.
He glanced briefly along the tree-lined street in this run-down district and let in the clutch. No one had answered the phone when he'd rung it two minutes ago on his mobile. He was going in.
The doorbell remained unanswered. The door key fitted. The warning buzzer in the alarm sounded, but went silent when he turned the immobilizer key. He began to relax. The alarm meant there was no one at home.
The hall smelt strongly of cooking. Fried onions. He was glad the house was empty. People could go to great lengths to keep hold of a valuable painting. It tallied with the photo and was exactly where Ken had said it would be. He lifted it from the wall and hurried back to the car.
Copyright © 2004 Christopher Wright