The Temple Mount Code: A Thomas Lourds Thriller

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9780141047607: The Temple Mount Code: A Thomas Lourds Thriller

An old friend summons dashing linguistics professor Thomas Lourds to Jerusalem to examine an ancient text. But Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also wants the same document. Khamenei and many others believe that the book contains a secret that will allow its owner to rule all of Islam and wage a Global Jihad the likes of which has never been seen before.

Arriving in Jerusalem, Lourds discovers that his friend has been murdered and his apartment ransacked. With the help of Miriam Abata, a beautiful Iranian-American Jewish graduate student, he races against the clock to seek the dangerous document: Lourds seeks to save civilization while his enemies hope to destroy it.

Continuing the New York Times bestselling series that includes The Atlantis Code and The Lucifer Code, The Temple Mount Code will appeal to readers interested in history and treasure hunting in the Holy Land and is perfect for fans of Dan Brown, Brad Meltzer, James Rollins, and Steve Berry.

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About the Author:

Charles Brokaw is the pseudonym for an author, scholar, and college educator living in the Midwest. He is the author of The Atlantis Code and The Lucifer Code. Brokaw has had a rich and varied life, and is fascinated by history, human accomplishment, archeology, and the possibilities of just what treasures might be buried beneath the earth. 

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER
1
 
 
JIAHU DIG
HENAN PROVINCE
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
JULY 21, 2011

“You’ve had quite a night, haven’t you, Professor Lourds?”
Buckled into the passenger seat of the Bell helicopter, Thomas Lourds smiled. He was pleasantly tipsy and looking forward to his tent, and the cot within it even more. “Personally, I thought the evening ended rather abruptly.”
“It has a tendency to do that when you get thrown out of the bar.” Robert Anders sat in the pilot’s seat, deftly handling the aircraft’s controls. His voice was a pleasant baritone over the radio system. He was a burly Australian with an unkempt air. Tattoos of mermaids and dolphins danced along his forearms as he maneuvered the helicopter over the craggy landscape below.
Lourds stared through the window at the ground. He knew they should be coming up on the Jiahu dig before long. After a moment, he saw the area, dotted with various lights, some coming from battery-powered lanterns and other areas lit by generator-powered strings of lights. Those camps were set up using private funding by corporations looking for tax shelters. Lowly universities, like Peking University, which Lourds was currently visiting, didn’t have money to throw around. Instead, the crews—professors and grad students—worked from sunup to sundown.
Anders shook his shaggy head. “I warned you not to hit on that woman.”
Lourds sighed. “If the lady had worn a wedding ring or waited to come with her husband, I wouldn’t have flirted with her so diligently. Rings were made for several reasons, you know, and one of those reasons was to keep a man from making a fool of himself.”
Working the stick, Anders dropped altitude and swooped down over the dig. Before they’d left the Peking University campsite, the Australian pilot had marked the makeshift landing pad with a fluorescent-painted sign. Lourds searched for it in the darkness.
“I don’t think the fight started because you were flirting with the missus, mate.” Anders grinned. “I think it was because you were on the verge of taking her home with you.”
Lourds smiled with genuine regret, which turned into a brief wince as his jaw twinged with pain. “She was quite lovely, wasn’t she?”
“Pretty as a pip, that one.”
“It wasn’t just about the beauty, though. Marie had a wonderful way of listening.”
“That’s ’cause you’re a natural-born storyteller. I never seen the like.”
“You’re too generous.”
“Just calling it the way I see it, Professor.”
“You can just call me Lourds.”
Anders nodded and looked out over the landscape again. “How’s Sleeping Beauty?”
Glancing over his shoulder, Lourds watched Professor Gao Kelu snoozing in the helicopter’s backseat. The young man hadn’t been able to go the distance with his older comrades. When they’d gotten kicked out of the club, after Anders and Lourds had gotten physical with the jealous husband and his brother, they’d had to carry Gao out with them.
“Still sound asleep.”
“Good.” Anders rubbed his face with a big hand. “That bloke couldn’t carry a note in a bucket.” He pointed through the Plexiglas. “That’s the campsite there, isn’t it?”
Lourds leaned forward and stared through the cockpit windshield. His eyes were bleary from alcohol, days spent eating the yellow dust of the central plains of ancient China, and from long hours of studying text. He made out the signal with difficulty. “It is.”
The landing strip had been situated on the other side of the dig Professor Hu had arranged for his students to work and for Lourds to visit. Lourds was initially visiting Peking University to deliver papers regarding protowriting to the professor’s undergrad classes. Although Harvard was expecting him back in a few days, Lourds had managed to squeeze out extra time from the dean, which he was putting to good use here.
“Hang on, and I’ll put us down.”
Lourds leaned back in his seat and felt the helicopter drop even closer to the ground. He’d lost most of the glow from the alcohol, but he knew he’d sleep well once he crawled into his cot. He wouldn’t need any aid from the thriller novel he habitually carried.
Tall and lean, Lourds was in his early forties and kept himself in good shape with dedicated soccer as well as his international trips. His short-cropped goatee was in need of a trim, and his hair had gotten a little shaggy, but he knew it looked good on him. He was dressed in a chambray shirt over a white T-shirt, and brown cargo pants tucked into tall hiking boots to cut down on the amount of dust that crept into his footwear.
As the helicopter started its final descent, movement and a red flash near the one of the dig sites caught Lourds’s attention. He grabbed for the spotlight mounted on his side of the helicopter, switched it on, and trailed the beam across the broken terrain.
“What is it?” Anders glanced in the direction of the beam.
“Thought I saw something.”
“What?”
The beam fell across the corner of the dig. The Jiahu was mostly undiscovered country for archaeologists. Even though over three hundred bodies had been taken from burial sites in the region, much of the area had yet to be explored. Lourds was a linguist, trained in dozens of languages, and a gifted translator.
Most everything that was found at the dig was turned over to the Chinese government, but there was a fair market for stolen relics. Purloined antiquities remained a flourishing part of international business. Even though China dealt with black market trade in antiquities harshly, there were some who were desperate enough to risk the punishment versus the payoff.
Lourds trailed the beam across the ground and flicked across a man running with a pack on his back. “Did you see that?”
“I did.” Anders flicked a hand out for the radio. “I’ll sound the alert.”
Lourds moved the spotlight around again and found another man. This one had a pack and a rifle, which he was aiming at the helicopter. “Look out!”
Anders jerked the stick, and the helicopter sideslipped through the air. The muzzle flare below stood out bright orange against the black. At almost the same time, a bullet ricocheted off the Plexiglas bubble, and the sound of the shot penetrated the loud din of the rotors.
Startled, Anders swore and twisted the helicopter around. Lourds braced himself as he struggled to keep the spotlight on the grave robbers.
Another man emerged from the shadows and all three men ran for the outer fringe of the excavation, the light trailing after them flying across tents and other dig sites. Lourds doggedly stayed on them as Anders flew the helicopter after the men.
“Do you know what they might have gotten?” Anders heeled the helicopter around again, turning perpendicular to the running men.
“No, we’re still exhuming bodies.” Lourds thought frantically. So much of what had been found at Jiahu was becoming ordinary, but who knew what extraordinary things were still waiting to be discovered? He knew it was more than possible the grave robbers had stumbled upon something irreplaceable. Lourds himself had done that when he’d located—and lost—Atlantis.
“There’s a vehicle up ahead.” Anders shifted the spotlight on his side and pinpointed a pickup truck parked in the shadows of a ridge.
“Good eyes.” Lourds was impressed. He hadn’t seen it, all of his attention focused on tracking the men.
“Have to have them in this business.” Anders glanced around. “I’d’ve thought someone woulda noticed us by now, but I don’t see anyone saddling up to come out this way.”
“We can’t let them get to the truck. Whatever they have might be lost forever.”
“Okay, hang on.” Anders increased the throttle speed and leaned the helicopter forward.
“Can you put me on the ground?”
“You want to go down there after them?”
“Might give us a better chance. If you can put me down near the vehicle, I might be able to disable it before they make their escape.”
“They’re not going to just sit back and watch, you know.”
Lourds nodded and felt slightly sick to his stomach. He wasn’t an action hero—he preferred to read about those kinds of people. And he was perfectly content to see any physical confrontation in his imagination as he turned the pages of a book. But he couldn’t just sit by and watch as perhaps priceless artifacts disappeared before the world got a chance to see them.
Adroitly, Anders maneuvered the helicopter straight for the waiting pickup. “I’m going to stay with the bird. For when you need to beat a hasty retreat.”
“All right.” Lourds took a couple quick breaths to settle his nerves. It didn’t work too well, but helped clear his head a bit.
“I’m gonna drop you on a touch-and-go, mate—the moment I stop moving, you start. When you get out, keep your head low till I take off again. I don’t want to decapitate you by accident.”
“No, we definitely do not want that.” Lourds unbuckled his seat belt and opened the helicopter’s side door. He watched the pickup grow steadily closer.
“Don’t forget they have guns.”
Lourds glanced at the starred imperfection on the cockpit nose. “Trust me, there’s no chance of me forgetting that.
Slowing his forward momentum, Anders dropped the helicopter to a point a little more than three feet above the ground. ...

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