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After a harrowing, otherworldly confrontation on the shores of Exmouth, Massachussetts, Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast is missing, presumed dead.
A SHOCKING RETURN
Sick with grief, Pendergast’s ward, Constance, retreats to her chambers beneath the family mansion at 891 Riverside Drive–only to be taken captive by a shadowy figure from the past.
AN INTERNATIONAL MANHUNT
Proctor, Pendergast’s longtime bodyguard, springs to action, chasing Constance’s kidnapper through cities, across oceans, and into wastelands unknown.
BUT IN A WORLD OF BLACK AND WHITE, NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS
And by the time Proctor discovers the truth, a terrifying engine has stirred-and it may already be too late . . .
THE OBSIDIAN CHAMBER
Preston & Child
ABOUT THE OBSIDIAN CHAMBER
A TRAGIC DISAPPEARANCE
After a harrowing, otherworldly confrontation on the shores of Exmouth, Massachussetts, Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast is missing, presumed dead.
A SHOCKING RETURN
Sick with grief, Pendergast’s ward, Constance, retreats to her chambers beneath the family mansion at 891 Riverside Drive – only to be taken captive by a shadowy figure from the past.
AN INTERNATIONAL MANHUNT
Proctor, Pendergast’s long-time bodyguard, springs to action, pursuing Constance’s kidnapper through cities, across oceans, and into wastelands unknown.
BUT IN THIS WORLD, NOTHING IS AS IT SEEMS
And by the time Proctor discovers the truth, a terrifying mechanism has stirred – and it may already be too late…
Lincoln Child dedicates this book to
his mother, Nancy
Douglas Preston dedicates this book to
Even in our sleep
pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart
until in our own despair
against our will
through the awful grace of God.
as paraphrased by Robert F. Kennedy
About The Obsidian Chamber
About Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
About the Agent Pendergast Series
About the Gideon Crew Series
Also by Preston & Child
Agent Pendergast Cast of Characters
An Invitation from the Publisher
PROCTOR EASED OPEN the double doors of the library to allow Mrs. Trask to pass through with a silver tray laden with a midmorning tea service.
The room was dim and hushed, lit only by the fire that guttered in the hearth. Before it, sitting in a wing chair, Proctor could see a motionless figure, indistinct in the faint light. Mrs. Trask walked over and placed the tray on a side table next to the chair.
“I thought you might like a cup of tea, Miss Greene,” she said.
“No thank you, Mrs. Trask,” came Constance’s low voice.
“It’s your favorite. Jasmine, first grade. I also brought you some madeleines. I baked them just this morning—I know how fond you are of them.”
“I’m not particularly hungry,” she answered. “Thank you for your trouble.”
“Well, I’ll just leave them here in case you change your mind.” Mrs. Trask smiled maternally, turned, and headed for the library exit. By the time she reached Proctor, the smile had faded and the look on her face had grown worried once again.
“I’ll only be gone a few days,” she said to him in a low tone. “My sister should be home from the hospital by the weekend. Are you sure you’ll be all right?”
Proctor nodded and watched her bustle her way back toward the kitchen before returning his gaze to the figure in the wing chair.
It had been over two weeks since Constance had come back to the mansion at 891 Riverside Drive. She had returned, grim and silent, without Agent Pendergast, and with no explanation of what had happened. Proctor—as Pendergast’s chauffeur, ex-military subordinate, and general security factotum—felt that, in the agent’s absence, it was his duty to help Constance through whatever she was dealing with. It had taken him time, patience, and effort to coax the story out of her. Even now, that story made little sense and he was unsure what really happened. What he did know, however, was that the vast house, lacking Pendergast’s presence, had changed—changed utterly. And so, too, had Constance.
After returning alone from Exmouth, Massachusetts—where she had gone to assist Special Agent A. X. L. Pendergast on a private case—Constance had locked herself in her room for days, taking meals only with the greatest reluctance. When she at last emerged, she seemed a different person: gaunt, spectral. Proctor had always known her to be coolheaded, reserved, and self-possessed. But in the days that followed, she was by turns apathetic and suddenly full of restless energy, pacing about the halls and corridors as if looking for something. She abandoned all interest in the pastimes that had once possessed her: researching the Pendergast family ancestry, antiquarian studies, reading, and playing the harpsichord. After a few anxious visits from Lieutenant D’Agosta, Captain Laura Hayward, and Margo Green, she had refused to see anyone. She also appeared to be— Proctor could think of no better way to put it—on her guard. The only times she showed a spark of her old self was on the very rare occasions when the phone rang, or when Proctor brought the mail back from the post office box. Always, always, he knew, she was hoping for word from Pendergast. But there had been none.
A certain high-level entity in the FBI had arranged to keep the search for Pendergast, and the attendant official investigation, out of reach of the news media. Nevertheless, Proctor had taken it upon himself to gather all the information he could about his employer’s disappearance. The search for the body, he learned, had lasted five days. Since the missing person was a federal agent, exceptional effort had been expended. Coast Guard cutters had searched the waters of Exmouth; local officers and National Guardsmen had combed the coastline from the New Hampshire border down to Cape Ann, looking for any sign—even so much as a shred of clothing. Divers had carefully examined rocks where the currents might have hung up a body, and the seafloor was scrutinized with sonar. But there had been nothing. The case remained officially open, but the unspoken conclusion was that Pendergast—gravely wounded in a fight, struggling against a vicious tidal current, weakened by the battering of the waves, and subjected to the fifty-degree water—had been swept out to sea and drowned, his body lost in the deeps. Just two days before, Pendergast’s lawyer—a partner in one of the oldest and most discreet law firms in New York—had finally reached out to Pendergast’s surviving son, Tristram, to give him the sad news of his father’s disappearance.
Now Proctor approached and took a seat beside Constance. She glanced up at him as he sat down, giving him the faintest smile. Then her gaze returned to the fire. The flickering light cast dark shadows over her violet eyes and dark bobbed hair.
Since her return, Proctor had taken it upon himself to look after her, knowing that this was what his employer would have wanted. Her troubled state roused uncharacteristically protective feelings within him—ironic, because under normal circumstances Constance was the last person to seek protection from another. And yet, without saying it, she seemed glad of his attentions.
She straightened in her chair. “Proctor, I’ve decided to go below.”
The abrupt announcement took him aback. “You mean—down there? Where you lived before?”
She said nothing.
“To . . . teach myself to accept the inevitable.”
“Why can’t you do that here, with us? You can’t just go down there again.”
She turned and stared at him with such intensity that he was taken aback. He realized it was hopeless to change her mind. Perhaps this meant she was finally accepting that Pendergast was gone—that was progress, of sorts. Perhaps.
Now she rose from her chair. “I’ll write a note for Mrs. Trask, instructing what necessities to leave inside the service elevator. I’ll take one hot meal each evening at eight. But nothing for the first two nights, please—I feel over-ministered-to at present. Besides, Mrs. Trask will be away, and I wouldn’t want to discommode you.”
Proctor rose as well. He took hold of her arm. “Constance, you must listen to me—”
She glanced down at his hand, and then up into his face with a look that prompted him to immediately release his grasp.
“Thank you, Proctor, for respecting my wishes.”
Rising up on her toes, she surprised him again by lightly kissing his cheek. Then she turned, and—moving almost like a sleepwalker— headed to the far end of the library, where the service elevator was hidden behind a false set of bookcases. She swung open the twin bookcases, slipped inside the waiting elevator, closed it behind her—and was gone.
Proctor stared at the spot for a long moment. This was crazy. He shook his head and turned away. Once again, the absence of Pendergast was like a shadow cast over the mansion—and over him. He needed time to be alone, to think this through.
He walked out of the library, took a turn down the hall, opened a door that led into a carpeted hallway, and mounted a crooked staircase leading to the old servants’ quarters. Gaining the third-floor landing, he walked down another corridor until he reached the door to his small apartment of rooms. He opened it, stepped inside, and closed it behind him.
He should have protested her plan more forcefully. With Pendergast gone, he was responsible for her. But he knew nothing he said would have made any difference. Long ago he’d learned that, while he could handle almost anyone, he was hopeless against her. In time, he mused, with his subtle encouragement, Constance would accept the reality of Pendergast’s death—and rejoin the living . . .
A gloved hand whipped around from behind, seizing him around the rib cage and tightening with immense force.
Taken by surprise, Proctor nevertheless reacted instinctually with a sharp downward movement, attempting to throw the intruder of balance; but the man anticipated the reaction and thwarted it. Instantly Proctor felt the sting of a needle jabbed deep into his neck. He froze.
“Movement is inadvisable,” came a strange, silky voice that Proctor, with profound shock, recognized.
He did not move. It stunned him that a man—any man—had gotten the drop on him. How was it possible? He had been preoccupied, inattentive. He would never forgive himself for this. Especially because this man, he knew, was Pendergast’s greatest enemy.
“You’re far better versed than I in the arts of physical combat,” continued the smooth voice. “So I’ve taken the liberty of evening the odds. What you’re feeling in your neck at the moment is, of course, a hypodermic needle. I have not yet depressed the plunger. The syringe contains a dose of sodium pentothal—a very large dose. I will ask you once, and once only: signal your acquiescence by relaxing your body. How you react now will determine whether you receive a dose that is merely anesthetizing . . . or lethal.”
Proctor considered his options. He let his body slacken.
“Excellent,” said the voice. “The name is Proctor, I seem to recall?”
Proctor remained silent. There would be an opportunity to reverse the situation; there was always an opportunity. He only had to think.
“I’ve been observing the family manor for some time now. The man of the house is away—permanently, it would seem. It’s as depressing as a tomb. You might as well all be wearing crepe.”
Proctor’s mind raced through various scenarios. He must pick one and execute it. He needed time, just a little time, a few seconds at most . . .
“Not in the mood for a chat? Just as well. I have a great many things to do, and so I bid you: good night.”
As he felt the plunger slide home, Proctor realized his time was up—and that, to his vast surprise, he had failed.
SLOWLY, PROCTOR SWAM back up toward consciousness from inky depths. It was a long swim, and it seemed to take a long time. At last he opened his eyes. The lids felt heavy, and it was all he could do not to close them again. What had happened? For a moment he lay motionless, taking in his surroundings. Then he realized: he was on the floor of his sitting room.
His sitting room.
I have a great many things to do . . .
All of a sudden, everything came back to him in a mad rush. He struggled to rise; failed; tried again with still-greater effort, and this time managed to push himself to a sitting position. His body felt like a sack of meal.
He glanced at his watch. Eleven fifteen am. He’d been out just over thirty minutes.
Thirty minutes. God only knew what might have transpired in that time.
I have a great many things to do . . .
With a heroic effort, Proctor staggered to his feet. The room rocked and he steadied himself against a table, shaking his head violently in an attempt to clear it. He paused just a moment, trying to collect both his physical and mental faculties. Then he opened the table’s single drawer, pulled out a Glock 22, and stuffed it into his waistband.
The door to his set of rooms was open, the central hallway of the servants’ quarters visible beyond. He made for the open doorway, steadied himself against its frame, then lurched down the hall like a drunken man. Reaching the narrow back staircase, he grasped the railing tightly and half walked, half staggered down two flights of stairs to the mansion’s main floor. This effort, and the sense of extreme danger that enveloped him, combined to help sharpen his senses. He walked down a short corridor and opened the door at the end leading to the public rooms.
Here he paused, preparing to call for Mrs. Trask. Then he reconsidered. Announcing his presence was inadvisable. Besides, Mrs. Trask had in all probability already left to visit her ailing sister in Albany. And in any case she was not the person in greatest danger. That person was Constance.
Proctor stepped out onto the marble floor, preparing to enter the library, ride the elevator to the basement, and take whatever steps were necessary to protect her. But just outside the library he stopped again. He could see that, within, a table had been overturned, books and various papers spilling over the carpeting.
He glanced around quickly. To his right, the mansion’s grand reception hall—its walls lined with cabinets full of strange displays—was a mess. A plinth had been knocked over, the ancient Etruscan cinerary urn previously displayed upon it shattered into pieces. The oversize vase of freshly cut flowers that always stood in the middle of the hall, its contents changed daily by Mrs. Trask, now lay broken on the marble floor, two dozen roses and lilies disarrayed in puddles of water. At the far end of the hall, at the doorway leading to the refectory gallery, one of the cabinet doors was wide open, canted to one side, half ripped from its hinges. It looked as if someone had grasped it in a frantic attempt to avoid being dragged away.
All too clearly, these were signs of a terrific struggle. And they led— from the library, across the reception hall—directly toward the mansion’s front door. And the world beyond.
Proctor ran across the hall. In the long, narrow room beyond, he could see that the refectory table—at which, until recently, Constance had been occupied with researching the Pendergast family history— was a riot of disorder: books and papers strewn about, chairs knocked over, a laptop computer upended. And at the far end of the room, where a foyer led to the front hall, was something even more disturbing: the heavy front door—which was rarely unlocked, let alone opened—stood ajar, admitting brilliant late-morning sunlight.
As he took in these signs with mounting horror, Proctor heard— from beyond the open door—the muffled sound of a female voice, crying for help.
Ignoring the still-receding dizziness, he raced down the room, pulling the Glock from his waistband. He ran under an archway, through the front hall, then kicked the front door wide and paused under the porte cochere beyond to reconnoiter.
There, at the far end of the driveway, a Lincoln Navigator with smoked windows was idling, facing Riverside Drive. Its closest rear door was open. Just outside it was Constance Greene, her wrists bound behind her. She was facing away from him, struggling desperately; but there was no mistaking the bobbed cut of her hair and her olive Burberry trench coat. A man, also facing away from Proctor, had hold of her head and was just now pushing her violently into the rear seat and slamming the door behind her.
Proctor raised his gun and fired, but the man leapt over the car’s hood and through the driver’s door, the shot going just wide. Proctor’s second shot ricocheted of the bulletproof glass, even as the car accelerated with a cloud of rubber and lurched onto Riverside Drive, the form of Constance, still struggling wildly, visible through the tinted rear window. The car roared down the avenue and out of range.
Just before the assailant had leapt into the car, he had turned toward Proctor, and their eyes had met. There could be no mistaking the man’s features: his strange bichromatic eyes, the pale, chiseled face, the trim beard and ginger hair and look of cold cruelty . . . This was none other than Diogenes, Pendergast’s brother and implacable enemy, whom they had all believed dead—killed by Constance more than three years previous.
Now he had reappeared. And he had Constance.
The look in Diogenes’s eyes—the ferocity, the dark and perverse glitter of triumph—was so terrible that, for the briefest of moments, even the stoic Proctor was unmanned. But his paralysis lasted only a millisecond. Shaking of the dread and the sedative both, he took off after the car, running down the driveway and leaping over the trimmed border hedge with a single bound.
IN HIS YOUTH Proctor had been an exceptional runner—he’d set a record on the endurance course during his OSUT that still stood at Fort Benning, and he’d kept in peak condition ever since—and he pursued the Navigator at the top of his speed. It was now idling at a red light, a block and a half ahead. Proctor covered the distance in under fifteen seconds. Just as he neared the vehicle, the light turned green and the Navigator screeched ahead.
Planting his feet on the asphalt, Proctor aimed his Glock at the vehicle’s rear tires and fired twice, first at the left, then at the right. The shots hit home, the rubber of both tires shivering from the impact. But even as he watched, they stiffened again with an explosive hiss. Self-inflating. The Navigator, Diogenes at the wheel, gunned around the vehicle ahead of it and accelerated up Riverside, weaving through traffic.
Now Proctor turned and raced back toward the mansion, stuffing the gun back into his waistband and pulling out his cell phone. He had only limited knowledge of Pendergast’s contacts in the FBI and other federal agencies; besides, in this situation, calling the FBI would only slow things down. This was a matter for local police. He dialed 911.
“Nine-one-one emergency response,” a cool female voice answered.
Reaching the mansion, Proctor ducked through the front door and raced through the public rooms to the rear of the structure. For security and confidentiality, his cell phone was linked to a false name and address, and he knew this information would already be appearing on the operator’s screen. “This is Kenneth Lomax,” Proctor said, using the cover name, as he opened a false wall panel in the back corridor and snatched up a special bug-out bag he had prepared for precisely such an emergency. “I’ve just witnessed a violent abduction.”
Proctor gave the location as he stuffed the Glock in the bag, along with extra magazines of ammo. “I saw this man dragging a woman out of a house by her hair, and she was screaming for help at the top of her lungs. He threw her into a car and drove away.”
“Black Navigator with smoked windows, headed north on Riverside.” He gave her the license plate number as he grabbed the bag and ran through the kitchen toward the garage, where Pendergast’s ’59 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith was housed.
“Please stay on the line, sir. I’m dispatching units to intercept.”
Firing up the engine, Proctor peeled out of the driveway and turned north onto Riverside Drive, laying ten feet of rubber across the asphalt as he accelerated, running first one, then a second red light. Traffic was thin and he could see ahead for about half a mile. Peering through the hazy light, he tried to make out the Navigator, and thought he could just see it ten blocks ahead.
Accelerating further, he dodged his way between taxis, then ran another light to the furious blatting of horns. He knew that, because it was a possible kidnapping, the 911 operator would notify the Detective Bureau after calling in the marked units. She would also want a lot more information from him. He tossed the cell phone into the passenger seat, line still open. Then he turned on the police radio installed under the dash.
He accelerated further still, blocks shooting past in a blur. He could no longer see the Navigator ahead, even at the straightaway just before Washington Heights. The man’s most logical escape route would be the West Side Highway—but there were no entrances along this stretch of Riverside Drive North. He began to hear sirens; the police had responded quickly.
Suddenly, in his rearview mirror, he saw the Navigator shoot out onto Riverside Drive from 147th Street, heading south. Diogenes, he realized, had ducked into the one-way street in the wrong direction and turned around.
Lips compressed, Proctor sized up the traffic around him. Then he yanked the steering wheel sharply to the left. At the same time, he used the hand brake to lock the wheels, spinning the car around in a power slide. Another shriek of protesting horns and screeching of brakes from the surrounding traffic greeted this maneuver. He followed through the sliding turn, releasing the handbrake when the car completed a 180-degree rotation as he gunned the engine. The big car leapt forward. In the distance now, he could see flashing lights accompanying the wail of sirens.
- "The latest novel in Preston & Child's Pendergast series picks up from the cliffhanger-ending of CRIMSON SHORE and doesn't let up. The authors keep readers guessing... The crisp writing and exemplary stories are still in abundance in this consistently exciting and never predictable series."—Jeff Ayers, Associated Press
- "As any reader of suspense knows, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child write a series of books featuring one of the best characters in the history of suspense literature: Aloysius Pendergast. [THE OBSIDIAN CHAMBER is] an excellent story by these two unbelievably talented authors. A page-turner, a deluxe suspense, a perfect mystery--Preston & Child remain the best of the best and never let their huge fan base down!"—Suspense Magazine
- "Rivetingly superb ... great fun ... thriller-writing of the highest order. A lavish, brilliantly conceived puzzle that pieces together neo-gothic plotting with splendidly rich tones."—Jon Land, Providence Journal
- "Keep[s] the excitement meter pegged ... Action-adventure with a macabre, sometimes-fantastical flair."—Kirkus Reviews
- "It's like Christmas for lovers of suspense when the words Preston & Child once again appear on a book cover. It's a truly great Christmas when the main character of that novel is Aloysius X.L. Pendergast. For those who have read these books voraciously, it's not a surprise to learn that this latest tale is one that will keep you riveted until the very end...Preston & Child continue to make these books the absolute best there is in the suspense realm."—Suspense Magazine on Crimson Shore
- "New readers will be hooked...Die-hard fans will add this to their must-read lists."—Library Journal (Starred Review) of Crimson Shore - November 2015 LibraryReads Pick
- "Fast-moving, sophisticated and bursting with surprises... If you're willing to surrender to Preston and Child's fiendish imaginations, you might devour the Pendergast books the way kids do Halloween candy...There's nothing else like them."—The Washington Post on Blue Labyrinth
- "Preston & Child once again bring A.X.L. Pendergast to life and offer up a host of thrills, heart-pumping action, and an intricate plot that pits a vengeful killer against (still) the most interesting character in fiction."—Suspense Magazine on Blue Labyrinth
- "These dynamic authors' best thriller to date."—White Fire was one of Library Journal's Top 10 Thrillers of 2013
- "The best Pendergast book yet - a collision between past and present that will leave you breathless."—Lee Child on White Fire
- "A mile-a-minute thriller with a deeply entertaining plot and marvelous characters, in a setting that will chill your blood, and not only because it's 10 degrees below zero and covered with snow. My copy is full of crumbs because I couldn't put it down long enough to eat."—Diana Gabaldon on White Fire
- On Sale
- Oct 18, 2016
- Page Count
- 416 pages
- Grand Central Publishing