The Forgotten Holocaust, p.1Scott Mariani
The Forgotten Holocaust
Published by Avon an imprint of
1 London Bridge Street
London SE1 9GF
First published in Great Britain by HarperCollins Publishers 2015
Copyright © Scott Mariani 2015
Cover design © Head Design 2015
Scott Mariani asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library.
This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.
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Source ISBN: 9780007486175
Ebook Edition © Jan 2015 ISBN: 9780007486243
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‘They are going! They are going! The Irish are going with a vengeance! Soon a Celt will be as rare on the banks of the Liffey as a red man on the banks of the Hudson.’
The London Times, 1847
‘Could not anyone blow up that horrible island with dynamite and carry it off in pieces – a long way off?’
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Table of Contents
Read on …
About the Author
By the Same Author
About the Publisher
County Cork, Ireland
May 29th, 1846
It had been raining all morning, but now the sun shone brightly over the fields. Other than the gentle breeze that rustled the crops, all was still and silent. Beyond the rickety wooden fence, the country road was empty, except for two men approaching on horseback.
Any local observing the pair of riders would have been able to tell at a glance that they weren’t simple peasants. They made an odd couple. The younger of the two was a tall, broad, self-assured man with a certain air, whose high-bred chestnut hunter was worth far more than any Irish farmer could have afforded – the Penal Laws had made it illegal for many years for an Irish Catholic to own a horse worth over £5. His older companion, a smaller, much slighter bespectacled fellow jolting uncomfortably along beside him astride a bay mare, had the look of a parson or a schoolmaster, and certainly not one from these parts.
What no observer could have guessed, though, was the deadly secret nature and equally deadly purpose of their mission. A mission that had taken many months to engineer, and was now a
Although they knew each other very well, few words had passed between them during the ride. The older man seemed ill at ease in the saddle and kept nervously checking his silver pocket watch and twisting round to glance over his shoulder, as if he expected to spot someone following. All he saw was the deserted road snaking away for miles behind them until it disappeared into the green hills.
He wanted to say something. The words were right on the tip of his tongue: ‘Edgar, this plan … I have terrible misgivings. I’m just no longer sure that we’re doing the right thing.’
But he swallowed his words, kept silent. He knew what the reply would be. He couldn’t afford for his commitment to come into doubt. Things had advanced much too far for that.
The younger man halted his hunter by a rickety gate and glanced around him. ‘Here,’ was all he said to his companion. They dismounted, led their horses to the gate and tethered them up where they could munch at the long roadside grass.
The younger man reached into his saddlebag and took out a box-shaped object wrapped in cloth. Handling it with care, he passed it to the older man, who clutched it anxiously as he waited for his companion to vault over the gate into the field beyond and then handed it back to him.
The time to express any last-minute doubts was definitely past.
The older man awkwardly clambered over the gate and scurried to join the other, who was already striding purposefully towards the middle of the field with the cloth-wrapped box under his arm.
All around them the leafy plants were springing up in the regularly spaced furrows the Irish called ‘lazy beds’, full of the same vitality and vigour that could be seen across the whole countryside. Even in the miserable patches of land sown by the poorest tenant farmers, the dark green leaves and purple blossoms were healthy and erect. The men walked in silence to the middle of the field, the older one having to trot to keep up. He was out of breath by the time they halted.
The younger one gazed back at the road. There was still not a soul in sight. Silence, except for the soft breeze. The horses were grazing contentedly in the distance.
‘Let’s get it done,’ he said.
The two of them crouched among the plants, so that nobody could have watched them from the road even if the landscape hadn’t been deserted as far as the eye could see. The younger man unwrapped his package to reveal a small casket made of varnished oak with brass fittings. He set it carefully on the ground and opened its lid. Inside, protected by the red velvet lining, was a row of small glass phials containing the precious substance.
Each phial held just a few fluid drachms. That was all that was needed.
He picked one out of the velvet folds, holding it gingerly so as not to crush the thin glass. For such a large, powerful man, his movements were surprisingly delicate and exact. He carefully removed the cork stopper from the phial, keeping it well away from his nose.
The thick, glutinous substance inside looked faecal, and smelled worse. The older man looked on with a frown as his companion emptied the contents of the phial into the ground, scattering it among the bases of the crop stalks where it quickly soaked into the moist earth. He restoppered the empty phial, replaced it in the box with the others.
That done, he closed the lid, wrapped the box back up in its cloth and stood up with the package under his arm and a look of grim satisfaction.
The older man’s expression was quite different as he got stiffly to his feet. He couldn’t take his eyes off the ground where they’d poured out the substance. He’d broken out into a sweat that wasn’t caused by the warm sun. He felt a sudden chill and nervously thrust his trembling hands into his waistcoat pockets.
‘And so it begins,’ he muttered solemnly. ‘May God forgive us, Edgar.’
‘You talk too much, Fitzwilliam. Let’s go. We have a lot more work to do.’
They walked in silence back towards the gate.
25 miles from Tulsa, Oklahoma
The present day
The August sun was still high above the trees by the time Erin reached the cabin. The driver pulled the Cadillac Escalade to a halt, got out and opened the back door for her.
‘Thanks, Joe,’ Erin said brightly, stepping down from the car with her small backpack, which was all the luggage she’d brought.
‘You have yourself a great weekend, Miss Hayes,’ Joe replied. ‘You got the number, right? Just call me whenever you want, and I’ll come right away to take you home.’ With a final smile, he got back behind the wheel, and she watched the car disappear down the track that was the only access to this remote spot.
‘So here we are,’ Erin said to herself, gazing around her once she was alone.
Angela hadn’t been kidding about the beauty of the place. So this was how the wealthy folks lived. And for just a couple of days, humble charity worker Erin Hayes was to have it all to herself. Everyone should have an employer this generous.
Oologah Lake. The name came from the Cherokee word for ‘dark cloud’. This northern corner of Oklahoma was known for its fearsome windstorms. Today, though, the lake was as still as glass, visible through the trees with the sunlight glittering across its vastness and gleaming off the windows of the boathouse by the little jetty. The cabin itself was long and low, surrounded by a whitewood veranda complete with rocking chair and beautiful old lanterns. The nearest neighbours were about a mile away through the woods, or so she’d been told.
The solitude didn’t bother Erin a bit. It was Friday, the end of a long week, and she had nothing on her mind other than the peaceful weekend ahead. She let herself inside and quickly entered the alarm code on the keypad panel near the door.
Angela might call it a cabin, but the place seemed three times the size of Erin’s miniscule house in Tulsa’s Crosbie Heights district. The furnishings were predictably expensive. The walls and floor were burnished oak and walnut, gleaming with a thousand coats of varnish. Some architect must have got paid a packet to come up with the design. The right blend of traditional and modern, with a high ceiling framed all the way around by a galleried landing that overlooked the open-plan living space below. Four bedrooms radiated off the landing, east, south, north and west. She spent a while exploring, then carried her backpack upstairs to the room she’d decided would be hers for the weekend. The east bedroom, so she’d be woken by the rising sun in the morning. She dumped her stuff on the bed and then changed into her running shoes, trotted back downstairs and headed outside to discover the tracks Angela had said wound for miles through the woods.
Erin was in training for that November’s Route 66 Marathon, which she’d entered to help raise funds for the Desert Rose Trust, the youth education charity she worked for and of which Angela was president. As she jogged along the sun-dappled track that skirted the lake, she thought about the employer who’d become her friend. Angela had never really confided in her, but Erin got the impression that she and her husband lived somewhat separate lives. They were rich, of course – unimaginably rich, at least by Erin’s standards, with a fabulous mansion in north Tulsa. But even rich folks had their problems. Angela’s husband was often off somewhere or other on ‘business’; Erin wondered whether Angela might be seeing someone else on the side, someone who could make her laugh and treat her with a little more warmth. There had only ever been tiny hints, but women noticed these things.
Erin enjoyed her long run through the lakeside woodlands. At thirty-three, she was in the best shape of her life, an achievement that made her feel proud. Returning to the cabin as the sunlight was fading, she showered, changed into soft lounging-around clothes and then spent the evening doing just that. Angela had said to help herself to whatever was in the fridge, but Erin ignored the well-stocked drinks cabinet.
After a light meal and a couple of hours’ reading and exploring the CD collection, she turned on the alarm system the way Angela had instructed, then padded contentedly upstairs to bed. She fe
She was deep in a pleasant dream when she awoke suddenly. It wasn’t the rising sun on her face, greeting her at the start of a fine new day.
It was the sound of voices. The room was still dark. It was still night. She checked her watch. Nine minutes to two in the morning. She sat rigidly upright in the bed, suddenly alert, heart beating fast. She strained to listen.
She hadn’t imagined it.
The voices were coming from inside the cabin. From downstairs.
Frightened but quickly gathering her wits, Erin scrabbled out of bed and reached into her backpack for the compact Springfield nine-millimetre that her daddy had given her: one of the former security guard’s two gifts to his only daughter before he’d died. His comfort as he left this world had been that she would always be able to look after herself. Always have a backup, was the motto he’d drummed into her from when she was a little girl. Erin had honoured that by learning to use the pistol effectively and safely and keeping it near her, always loaded.
Clutching it now, she sneaked out of the bedroom and onto the landing, crouching to peer through the wooden railing. She shrank herself down as small as possible, almost too afraid to look. Her heart was thumping so loudly, she was scared it would give her away to whoever had entered the cabin.
The Forgotten Holocaust by Scott Mariani / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes