Professor Richard Fisher gazed out on to the campus grounds through the blinds of his fifth floor office window, and watched the crowds of students milling around on the courtyard below. He sighed and sipped tentatively at his mug of hot coffee. He had just finished a seminar with his 11.30 class, who were a rowdy bunch. He was not sure how many true academics there were in that class, or how deep their interest in Archaeology was. Some of them seemed more interested in their lively social lives than the subject at times. However, these days that was to be expected. Fisher could almost remember back as far as his own undergraduate days, and he too had hardly been the most studious academic. He considered that he’d always had a genuine interest in the subject though, and he was not sure that all of his current students shared the same passion for Archaeology and History that he and his peers had. It had been less common for eighteen year olds to attend university and read for a degree back then, whereas today it seemed that nearly everyone was getting into a ‘university’ course.
Fisher was in his mid-forties now, and his undergraduate years were almost twenty five years ago. His BA years had been a whole quarter of a century ago, indeed. Had it really been that long? It occurred to him that as you get older, time seems to speed up. The last few hours of a man’s life must fly by like seconds. He’d got his first class honours degree in History and Archaeology from Cambridge, before studying for his Masters degree and PhD. Then, of course, his commitment to academic study had become more serious. He’d published several papers and two books, and gradually become respected for his views and achievements. He’d had some fun along the way, of course. He was now one of the leading academics in his field, albeit with two failed marriages behind him. He’d always regretted that he hadn’t been able to work things out with Charlotte and Sophie, and that he had never had children. His work had always been very important to him, and had perhaps cost him his personal happiness.
He sat down at his desk again and chuckled to himself. You’re in a morbid mood this morning, he thought. Surely the 11.30 class had not depressed him that much. In truth, he enjoyed his seminars with the undergraduates and their sense of humour could be amusing at times.
As he resumed his draft of a lesson plan for next week’s final year students, the telephone rang. He did not know it yet, but it was a telephone call that would change his immediate plans for that semester.
“Hello? Professor Fisher speaking.”
“Hello Richard.” It was a woman’s voice that he did not recognise.
Fisher frowned. “Who is this?”
There was a throaty chuckle on the line. “Oh come on Richard. Have you forgotten me already? Do you not remember the Etruscan site near Rome in 1993?”
Fisher smiled. Now he recognised the voice. It belonged to a former colleague of his, a renowned academic and archaeologist, Dr Amelia Graves. As she had reminded him, he’d met Amelia seventeen years before, during an excavation of Etruscan ruins in Italy. They had been colleagues at the time, and they had also had a brief affair. Unfortunately, he had still been married to Charlotte. At their divorce proceedings four years later, Charlotte had cited his infidelity. Since that time and that brief fling, Fisher had only met Amelia Graves at a handful of academic conferences, and they had never sought to rekindle their old flame. In fact, he had not seen or spoken to her for almost eight years now, he thought. She had never married.
“Amelia!” he said brightly. “It’s been a long time. It’s wonderful to hear from you!”
“It’s nice to speak to you again”, she said. The line was not the best, and her voice sounded a little faint. Momentarily, various crackles during the connection were audible. Fisher wondered where she was calling him from. “How have you been?”
“Good, good”, Fisher replied. “How about yourself?”
“Likewise”, she replied. There was a short pause, and Fisher wondered what she was going to say after this awkward re-introduction. He recalled her image as he had last seen her, at a conference in 2002: a petite, slim woman with her dark brown hair cut into a bob hairstyle; green eyes peering owlishly from behind her fashionable spectacles. As he briefly remembered how she’d looked back then, she spoke to him again. “Richard…the reason I’ve got in touch is regarding a matter of academic interest.”
Fisher leaned back in his chair, seized by a sudden curiosity. “Really? That sounds intriguing.”
“Oh it is.” Fisher could tell by her tone that she was excited. “Richard, I am in Cyprus. We’ve made an incredible discovery here.”
“Cyprus?” Fisher frowned. “Are you talking about an excavation? What have you found? Something from the classic period? Greek? Neolithic?”
“Something more exciting than that”, Amelia told him. “This blows all of our assumptions about civilisation on Cyprus out of the water! Almost literally!”
“What do you mean?”
“Richard, we’ve found sophisticated structures on the Cypriot coastline that pre-date even Aetokremnos and Choirokoitia. We always assumed that settlers arrived on the previously uninhabited island of Cyprus in the ninth millennium BC. This site that has been discovered pre-dates even that estimate. Richard, these structures are much, much older than that. Civilisation existed on Cyprus even long before Aetokremnos. This is a momentous discovery.”
Fisher gripped the phone with excitement. “Amelia…this is fantastic news. You are…involved and leading this? If you publish papers on this, you will be famous- I’m surprised I haven’t read about it in the news yet! What is the nature of the structures that have been found?”
“I am leading the investigation, yes”, Amelia told him, as the telephone line crackled. “At the moment we are keeping this all hush-hush. There are one or two problems and…some unusual circumstances. The structures are…incredible. It’s amazing how well-preserved they are. But I’d like to tell you and show you in person. That’s the reason that I’m calling you. I’d like to get you on board.”
“Me?” Fisher was astonished. “Why me? I don’t know if I can come to Cyprus, Amelia…I’ve got commitments at the university for the next six months…”
“I have fond memories of our time working together in Italy”, Amelia said. “I would like to work with you again, and also you’re a brilliant researcher, historian and archaeologist. I’d really like your input on this because what we’ve discovered is both incredible…and baffling. It’s really best that you come here and see it for yourself. Ask the Chancellor or the Dean for unscheduled leave. I’m sure they will be able to replace you with someone who can take your classes.”
Fisher bit his lip and silently considered the offer. Certainly, he was intrigued by the details of this discovery. However, there were other matters to consider. There was the financial aspect of giving up his tenure at the university, for one. There was also his personal history with Amelia. He wondered if Dr Graves had finally decided to try and resurrect their past affair. Although he was strongly tempted to pack up and travel to Cyprus to see the mysterious discovery for himself, this history between them complicated matters. Then again, why should he always play it safe? He was not involved with anyone at the moment. Even if Amelia Graves did have other matters apart from work in mind, that was not necessarily a bad thing, was it?
“Richard, are you there?” Her voice interrupted his chain of thought.
“Yes, I’m still here”, Fisher told her. “Whereabouts on Cyprus is the site located?”
“Ah, this is one of the issues. It’s at the north-east section of the island, very close to the border and the UN buffer zone between the Cyprus Republic and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. It’s near the Varosha district, the ghost town of Famagusta. However, it’s also very close to where Turkish military make sea patrols. The location is a little problematic for us. The Cypriot government have given us permission to research and explore the structures. However, the Turks are aware of our discovery and we suspect that they might want to become involved. It could get political, and a little complicated.”
“Sounds like fun!” Fisher laughed. “Amelia, count me in.”
“That’s great news! When do you think you can arrive?”
“Let me get back to you. I need to get permission for my leave from the Chancellor, and I have a few things to sort out.” Fisher glanced at his watch. It was just after midday. He had another seminar at two-thirty, but he knew that he might be able to catch the Chancellor in his office at two. “Do you have a number that I can contact you on?”
Amelia Graves gave him both her mobile telephone number, and she gave him a landline number at her hotel. Fisher scribbled both down on a scrap of notepaper, and promised to get back to her as soon as he had more news. “I’m looking forward to seeing you again”, she’d said, and he had expressed similar sentiments before putting the phone down. He was certainly intrigued, and a little curious as to why Amelia had been so evasive regarding the nature of the discovery.
However, there was no guarantee that he would be allowed to travel out to Cyprus anyway. He began to mentally prepare himself for the meeting that he would arrange with the Chancellor, hoping that his request would be received favourably.
Julie Haines, the Chancellor’s secretary, smiled as she saw Professor Fisher approaching rapidly from the seventh floor landing of the Trueman Fields Building. Unlike many of the staff at each of the university faculties, all of whom seemed to live in their ivory towers separate from the real world, Richard Fisher was always well-dressed in a suit and tie and a very sociable person. He was a tall, impressive man with a full head of greying brown hair and sharp, intelligent blue eyes. Julie had remembered him from various occasions previously, when he had met the Chancellor before. She thought that Professor Fisher, and Robert Hayes, the University Chancellor, must know each other on a personal as well as professional level, as it was rare for the Chancellor and a member of teaching staff to meet so often.
For Fisher’s part, he was glancing at his watch and barely noticed the plump, fair-haired middle aged secretary. It was already five past two and he was late. “The Chancellor is waiting in his office for you”, Julie announced as he approached her desk.
“I apologise for my lateness, I hope the Chancellor isn’t too annoyed…” Fisher told her distractedly.
“Not at all”, Julie said with a titter. “I think he was playing golf in his office.”
As she picked up the phone to inform the Chancellor that he had arrived, Fisher raised an eyebrow and smiled at the mention of golf. He waited patiently, as she spoke to Hayes with a quick: “Yes, he’s here.” She put the phone down and smiled at him. “He’s ready to see you now.”
When Fisher opened the office door, he found Robert Hayes, the Chancellor, preparing himself for a putt. Hayes’ jacket had been discarded on one of the chairs, and his shirt sleeves were rolled up. He was standing over the golf ball with the putter at the ready, his facial expression a picture of absolute concentration. As Fisher closed the door, Hayes hit the shot. The golf ball rolled agonisingly wide of the paper cup which Hayes had set up as a target.
“Professor Fisher! I believe you interrupted my focus there!” Hayes said with a laugh. “You were in my line of sight. Never mind. How are you?” The two men shook hands. At five feet eleven, Robert Hayes was slightly shorter than Fisher. He was a stocky man with thinning and greying jet black hair, and possessed penetrating dark brown eyes underneath thick bushy eyebrows. He was in his late forties, and had accepted the Chancellor position at the university four years before after a background in business and finance. He had first met Professor Fisher at a university dinner, and they’d got on well with each other. They both discovered that they shared an interest in golf, and a casual acquaintance had become a firm friendship after several golf weekends.
“I’m well thanks, Bob”, Fisher said, as Hayes tossed his putter on the floor, and seated himself behind his desk. Hayes’ office was quite impressive, with a wide view of the main campus outside his seventh floor window. Upon the walls there were various paintings and photographs of buildings and places on the campus. There were also several shelves full of books, mostly business and financial literature. Fisher sat down in a chair opposite Hayes on the other side of his desk, which the Chancellor had indicated.
“Why did you want to talk to me?” Hayes asked.
Fisher hesitated. He hoped that his friendship with the Chancellor might count for something. “Bob…I’m very sorry, but I had a call today from an old colleague, and…an opportunity has come up. It’s a very interesting opportunity, but unfortunately it clashes with the current semester. I came to request some temporary leave. I appreciate this is very short notice, and you’ll have to find another lecturer, but this is something that could be quite important.”
Hayes smiled. “Well Richard, obviously the timing is not ideal, but I know that this must be something important for you to request leave. You do still enjoy the teaching, don’t you?”
“Of course! Something has come up that I couldn’t really turn down, that’s all.”
“I see. You did remark to me that you were a little disillusioned with the current student intake, that’s all. Are you sure that you haven’t fallen out of love with the teaching?”
“Not at all!” Fisher replied. “I will be back next semester, of course.”
“Very well”, Hayes said. “Of course, your leave will be granted. How long were you looking to be away for?”
Fisher was gratified and relieved. “I think three months will be long enough.”
Hayes sighed. “I suppose that the Faculty of History and Archaeology will have to find a new lecturer for the duration, then. May I ask what this outside project you’re so eager to work on is exactly?”
“It’s an historic find”, Fisher told him. “My colleague has alerted me to it, but it’s very hush-hush at the moment. It could end up becoming very high profile.”
“Hmmm, interesting! Well, Richard that’s excellent!” Hayes stood up, indicating that the meeting was almost over. “If it does become high profile, then it’s excellent publicity for the university. Every cloud has a silver lining!”
Fisher stood up and shook hands with the Chancellor again. “Indeed”, he said.
“I wish you good luck”, Hayes said. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really need to practise my putting…”
Fisher returned to his office for the two-thirty seminar with a class of first year students. An hour later, when the group of unresponsive undergraduates had vacated the room, Fisher made some phone calls. He was renting a flat in the university town and intended to vacate it. He also called another old colleague, who he would recommend to Hayes for covering his classes this semester. Finally, he called Amelia Graves on the landline number she’d given him to tell her the good news. She did not answer, so he called her mobile and finally spoke to her on a poor line with some disturbance.
“That’s great news!” she said. “When can you come to Cyprus?”
“Give me a week or two”, Fisher replied. “Can you e-mail me the details of the location of the site, accommodation and all that?” He gave her his e-mail address.
“I’m looking forward to seeing you”, Amelia told him.
“I’m looking forward to seeing this archaeological discovery of yours”, Fisher replied. “I’ll be in touch soon. Bye.”
Just over a week later, Fisher was seated on a busy Cyprus Airlines flight between London Heathrow and Larnaca. The plane was packed with British holidaymakers, taking advantage of the slightly cooler and more bearable Cypriot temperatures in September. The presence of noisy children had slightly irritated Fisher, as he attempted to read his book. An irate old lady had thumped the back of his chair in annoyance, when he had tipped the seat back to secure more leg-room. Overall, it was not a pleasant experience and he had started to wish that he had booked first class.
When he finally arrived in Larnaca, it was nine o’clock in the evening. He’d left Heathrow in the afternoon, and it had been a four hour flight. In Cyprus, though, they were two hours ahead of England, so it was seven o’clock back home. The first thing that struck Fisher, as he walked through the airport, was the clammy nature of the heat compared to England- even at this late hour. However, he was used to the disparity, having visited Mediterranean and other tropical locations before, in the course of his academic work.
Amelia had sent someone to meet him at the airport. As Fisher wandered through arrivals, he saw a swarthy-looking young man with jet black hair, an olive tan and week-old stubble on his jaw, holding up a placard reading ‘PROFESSOR FISHER’, written in capital letters, in black marker pen. From the looks of the man, he was obviously Cypriot. He smiled and shook Fisher’s hand when the academic approached him.
“Hello”, he said. The man spoke with an accent, but his English was good. “Welcome to Cyprus! I am Nikos Charamboulos. Dr Graves has told me all about you. Do you all have your luggage? I’m to drive you to Paralimni, where you will be staying. It’s a short drive from the coast.”
“Sounds good to me.” Fisher was feeling tired after the flight, and his legs and back ached from the cramped plane seat. He was not quite as young and flexible as he used to be. He couldn’t wait to settle down somewhere comfortable and put his feet up. He followed the Cypriot into the car park outside Larnaca airport. It was busy at that time of the evening, with passengers entering and leaving the airport, taxis, buses and vehicles passing by. Fisher followed Nikos through the car park and to the Cypriot’s car, where Nikos opened the car boot for Fisher to place his suitcase inside.
“So do you work closely with Dr Graves?” Fisher asked to break the silence, once they had exited the airport and had driven out on to the motorway. Fisher could see the dry hills of the Cypriot landscape on one side, and the shimmering lights of the city of Lanarca on the other.
“Yes, frequently”, Nikos replied. “I am a history student, at the university in Nicosia. I am helping Dr Graves with her study of the site.”
“Ah yes”, Fisher replied. “What is the nature of the discovery? Dr Graves didn’t give me many details…”
“Well, yes.” Nikos glanced at him and smiled. “It is all very strange.”
“Oh? In what way? What exactly has been found?”
“It’s better that we show you, and you see for yourself”, Nikos said enthusiastically. “You would not believe us if we told you. I can say one thing…no digging was involved.”
“No digging? But…how have you discovered something that pre-dates Aetokremnos?”
Nikos laughed. “Wait and see, Professor. Wait and see.”
Fisher was mainly silent for the rest of the car journey. He was still puzzling over Nikos’ words, which baffled him. He could not understand the nature of Amelia’s discovery. She said that she had discovered an ancient site, but how had this been achieved without an archaeological dig? Nikos was not responsive to further questions, and so Fisher relaxed in the passenger seat and watched the Cypriot highway and landscape fly by, until finally they reached Paralimni.
Nikos dropped Fisher off outside his hotel. “I’ll probably see you tomorrow”, he said, as Fisher collected his suitcase from the boot of the car. “Amelia will call you, and we’ll take you to the site.”
Fisher thanked him, before going inside to check in at the hotel. The reception area was welcoming and he was pleased to discover that the hotel workers were friendly. He confirmed that he would be having breakfast, before the concierge showed him up to his room, carrying his luggage for him.
Once he was in his room, Fisher realised that he was too tired to even step outside and find somewhere to eat. He unpacked his suitcase, showered and then lay on his bed. Drowsiness came easily and he sank into a deep, dark, dreamless sleep.
Fisher’s alarm woke him at seven in the morning. He switched it off and stared at the ceiling for a while, before wiping his eyes and finally getting out of bed. He showered again (it had been a warm evening) before dressing in jeans, a white shirt and shoes and going downstairs for breakfast. It was a buffet breakfast, with a Cypriot influence. Fisher drank coffee and ate some cheese slices, toast, yoghurt and halloumi, the Cypriot cheese.
He was just finishing his breakfast when he noticed a woman appear in the dining hall and look round inquisitively at the diners. She was wearing a cream-coloured blouse and knee-length khaki shorts. Her dark brown hair was tied back in a bun and she wore glasses. She was slightly tanned. When Fisher made eye contact with her, she stared at him and finally smiled. It was Amelia Graves.
He rose to greet her as she approached his table. “Richard!” she said. “It’s wonderful to see you again!” She kissed him on both cheeks. “How are you? How was your flight?”
“Bearable”, he replied dryly. He sat back down again, and she also sat down at his table, beaming happily at him. In the eight years since he had last seen her, she had barely aged. He supposed that it must be the healthy air of foreign climes.
“How is academic life?” she asked with a smile. “Still enjoying teaching?”
“It’s not much fun chasing undergrads for their module essay papers, but aside from that I don’t mind it too much”, Fisher replied.
“You look good. A little greyer, but you haven’t changed much.”
“Thanks”, Fisher replied with a short laugh. “Neither have you. You look good as well. Very good, in fact.”
Amelia smiled. “Thank you.” She leaned forward and gazed at him intently. “You must be curious about…our discovery.”
Fisher wiped his mouth with his napkin and tossed it casually on the table. He was eager to see exactly what she’d brought him out to Cyprus for. “Well, there are many things that don’t make sense to me. I spoke to your friend Nikos last night, and he said some things that are very strange, about this site of historic interest. Apparently you’re not digging, but you’ve found an ancient site, estimated to be twelve millennia B.C old in fact. I don’t understand how that can be the case.”
“Have you finished your breakfast?” Amelia abruptly asked. She stood up. “When you are ready to leave, Nikos is waiting outside in the car, we can drive you there. Then you’ll understand exactly what we’ve discovered.”
Fisher found himself taking a back seat in the car, while Dr Amelia Graves and Nikos Charamboulos sat in the front. Nikos, the man that he had met the previous night, greeted him warmly. He took the wheel and drove them away from Paralimni, out into the Cypriot countryside and in the direction of the coast.
It was a baking hot day. There was not a cloud in the sky and the sun burned down relentlessly, even at this relatively early time in the morning before nine o’clock. Nikos drove the car along a winding, rough country road, toward the coastline. Fisher wiped the sweat from his brow as he watched the dry, yellow hillside landscape of the Cypriot countryside go by. Every so often, he saw the white constructions of Cypriot villages nestled in the hills or small local shops with billboards written in Greek and English.
Fisher had noticed the subtle, physical touches between Nikos and Amelia, and he observed their softly spoken exchanges and body language during the journey. Immediately, he began to suspect that they were involved romantically with each other. It would make sense, considering that Nikos was clearly deeply involved with Amelia’s mysterious project. He was much younger than her, though. She was forty now and he was in his mid-twenties perhaps? He was in his late twenties, at most. He had told Fisher that he was a student in Nicosia at the airport the previous night, and Fisher supposed that was how they must have met. Did he feel a twinge of jealousy? It was rather an irrational feeling, though. He had only had a brief fling with Amelia fifteen years before, but perhaps her phone call had roused his hopes. He had wondered if she had required his presence for old time’s sake, rather than in a professional capacity. With Nikos here, he guessed not.
The car drove over the crest of a steep hill, and the engine spluttered slightly with the effort. However, Fisher now had a remarkable view of the rugged coastline. The Mediterranean was a deep blue in colour, and sunlight sparkled upon the lapping waves. As ever, it was a magnificent sight. However, his attention was drawn to something curious, which Amelia now pointed out to him over Nikos’ shoulder. “There!” she said.
Puzzled, Fisher looked out to sea. It seemed that there was a small island, or land mass, just off the coastline in the direction of Cape Eloea and Famagusta beyond that. As he looked more closely, he could make out numerous structures upon the isle. He could see quite elaborate architecture built there: pyramid structures and looming towers. It reminded him a little of Ancient Persian buildings, or the constructions of the Aztecs or the Egyptians. His mouth dropped open. “What am I looking at…?” he murmured. “Is this something modern? When were the buildings on there constructed? Hold on…is this your ancient site? Yet how can it be? How has this been preserved?”
Amelia was looking back at him and smiling. It was Nikos who answered him. “My friend, about three months ago there was an awful earthquake. It hit this part of Cyprus. Everyone was terrified, the houses shook, and cracks appeared in the roads. When it finished, people came here and they saw something new.”
Amelia took up the story. “Richard, that isle and those buildings were not there before the quake. It suddenly appeared after the event. When people went to investigate, they were astonished to see those impressive buildings. We tested the age of the stone and the rock, and we discovered that it was far older than anything found on Cyprus before. Those buildings were built in the fifteenth millennia B.C, long before we previously confirmed that Cyprus was first inhabited.”
Fisher shook his head in disbelief. “So what are you saying? That…the earthquake somehow…raised that island? Have you spoken to a geologist? Is that even possible? If those buildings are so old, how have they been so well preserved? Even the sea should have worn the stone away.”
Amelia shrugged. “We’re not sure. Perhaps it was submerged in earth and clay before the quake, which disturbed the land mass and pushed it toward the surface? As I said, you really have to see it for yourself. It’s a mystery.”
“A city that was beneath the sea”, Nikos stated solemnly.
“Do you think there is more of it?” Fisher asked, gazing contemplatively at the small isle. “Submerged beneath the sea?” As they drew ever closer, Fisher could make out the structures there more clearly. There were definitely buildings that looked like small Egyptian pyramids, and buildings that looked like Aztec or Inca temples and palaces with looming towers and tall, wide steps. It was definitely not Greek or Roman, Fisher could see, and it was not the same kind of structures found at Neolithic sites like Choirokoitia. This was far more elaborate, intricate and complex. The stone that had been used to construct these fascinating buildings even looked a reddish-brown colour in places, which was very unusual.
“We’ve had a couple of divers investigate the waters around the isle”, Amelia replied. “We think there’s more below the surface, yes.”
“I’d love to see it up close”, Fisher told them. “Is it possible to reach it this morning?”
Amelia grinned at him. “Of course. That’s why we brought you here. We have a boat waiting to take us out there. It’s only a couple of minutes across the channel from the beach.”
“You will be amazed, Professor Fisher”, Nikos said, glancing over his shoulder. “You will never have seen such well-preserved buildings before. This is a new modern wonder of the world.”
Nikos did not exaggerate. That morning Fisher came to understand Amelia’s excitement at this strange and unusual discovery.
They took a small motor-boat from a rocky cove on the shoreline, manned by another Cypriot, a man of Nikos’ age with a bald head, and physically well-built. He and Nikos spoke to each other in their own language while Fisher and Amelia clambered into the back of the boat. From this vantage point, Fisher could now see the newly emerged isle up close. With the edge of the isle being only around four hundred metres away from the beach, the buildings that had emerged from the sea on that small land mass looked even more forbidding and impressive. Truly, Fisher had never seen such structures in this part of the world before. He remarked to Amelia and Nikos that he was reminded of Aztec and Inca temples, or some forms of Egyptian architecture and his companions readily agreed with him.
“It’s not like anything we have found in Greece, Cyprus or Asia Minor before”, Nikos replied.
The motor boat roared into life and sped them rapidly toward the island. As they approached, Fisher was able to examine the features of the buildings more closely. He could not wait to see them once they were on the isle, and explore inside. The level of preservation was astonishing. In some places he could now see traces of algae and sea-weed, but aside from that the overall condition of the ornate buildings was remarkable.
As they neared the jagged crags of the isle, Nikos’ friend slowed the motor boat down and they sailed gently toward the nearest rocky outcrop. When land was just a step away, Fisher stood up and gingerly eased himself out of the boat. He walked inland a little to make space for the others, and gazed up in wonderment at the huge, soaring temples and monuments that were around him.
The Cypriot heat and dry weather had dried out the stone surfaces of the structures since they had risen to the surface three months before, as Nikos had stated. Fisher could still detect the faint odour of the ocean and the scent of the sea around him, but aside from that there appeared to be little decay or damage. He could already see entrances into some of the buildings, dark archways and doors to what appeared to be gloomy tunnels beyond them. The place appeared to be deserted, and he wondered if Amelia had any of her people here.
“Is there anyone else studying this place at the moment?” he asked her.
Amelia had cautiously stepped on to the rocky outcrop from the motor-boat. She pushed her spectacle frame further up her nose and peered around. “Not at the moment…we’re bringing a team here tomorrow.” Suddenly her face lit up. “Led by you, of course, Richard.”
Fisher indicated the archways and entrances to the buildings and temples that were already clearly visible. “There is obvious access to the inside of these buildings”, he said. “Have you been in there and explored?”
“Oh yes”, Nikos replied. “There is much to see.”
“There are a vast number of tunnels, a network of catacombs down in there”, Amelia said. “We need to map them properly and start to chart them. We know that some may lead down below sea level and become waterlogged. We have to be careful, as when the tides change it can become dangerous. But that’s something we want to do, as soon as we have more investment in the project.”
“I expected more activity here”, Fisher said. “It’s a remarkable place but…it’s so quiet.” He shivered. “It gives me the creeps!”
“The Cypriot government have not been that helpful so far”, Amelia explained. “Also…we’re not far from the border and the Turks are aware of this place. As officially it’s not on the soil of the Republic of Cyprus, they have made a claim and want to investigate. The political situation has stalled matters a little.”
“Ah”, Fisher said, nodding. “So it could get messy.” He gazed upward and around him at the astonishing structures again.
“Possibly”, Amelia said. “But that’s why I asked you here, Richard. I’d like you to lead the team, get us started. Formulate a strategy for mapping and investigating this place.”
“This could be more than three months work…” Fisher mused. Ahead of him, there was a large rectangular building, with various designs inscribed upon the stone. He recognised an eye, a hand and a fish, cut into the stone several metres apart but evenly spaced. What did that mean, he wondered? Below the designs there was an archway leading inside, which was almost an open invitation. Curiosity got the better of Fisher, and he decided to go inside the temple. After a moment, Amelia and Nikos followed him. The other man remained by the motor-boat.
Fisher entered the building. The light was scarce compared to the bright sunshine outside, and he had to pause while his eyes adjusted to the dim light. Here, away from the unyielding glare of the sun, the damp from the watery ocean had not dissipated. Somewhere he could hear the steady dripping of small drops of water. Here, there was an atmosphere which summoned a vision of vast ocean caverns in the ocean-depths, populated by sea-creatures. He looked upwards. The ceiling was somewhere above, but shrouded in darkness. To explore this place properly, they would need torches, he thought.
Suddenly there was a shout from the doorway. “We’ve got company”, Nikos said, interrupting Fisher’s thoughts.
“Company?” Amelia was the first to turn back and go outside. Fisher lingered for a little longer, examining what appeared to be a plain floor. There did not appear to be anything else in the vast hall which formed the interior space, although he could not see clearly into the shadowy depths near the far walls. Regretfully, he went back outside to see what Nikos was talking about.
Fisher stood in the shadows of the towering temples and watched the motor-boat approach from the distance. The mysterious isle had fresh visitors. Looking at the insignia on the boat and the uniforms they were wearing, it was clearly the Cypriot police. Amelia, Nikos and the other man who had brought them shielded their eyes against the rays of the sun, and waited for the new arrivals.
The motor boat cut its engines and glided close to the edge of the rocky outcrop as they had done. When it was close enough, the police officer stepped off the boat and on to solid land. He wore the usual uniform of the Cypriot police: dark blue trousers, a light blue shirt and a peaked cap.
He briefly addressed Nikos and the other man in the Cypriot tongue, before speaking to Amelia. “Dr Graves, how are you today? Planning another study of this place?”
“Hello Officer Nicolaides”, Amelia said. “I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine from England, Professor Richard Fisher.”
The policeman stepped forward and shook Fisher’s hand. As he did so, Fisher scrutinised him. The police officer was in his thirties, tall and solidly built with a dark beard. Sunglasses screened his eyes from view. “Giorgios Nicolaides”, the officer said to him. “I am pleased to meet you, Professor…Fisher?”
The officer turned to Amelia. “And all is well here? No…incidents?”
“All is well”, Amelia replied, smiling and nodding.
“I am glad to hear it”, Giorgios Nicolaides said. “The Turkish, you know, they are…talking?” He made the shape of a flapping beak with his fingers and thumb, and looked at Fisher and laughed. “We always have to make sure that no one is here who shouldn’t be. Well, I wish you all the best with your work here, and your study. I hope that you won’t have any more…setbacks? Cheers.”
With that, the policeman got back on his motor boat. As the engine roared into life, Fisher stepped nearer to Amelia and whispered in her ear: “What was all that about?”
“I’ll tell you later”, she replied. “I thought you might like to spend the day exploring. For lunch- we can stay here and have a picnic on the island, if you like. In the evening, well…there’s a local taverna. High on the cliffs, back on the mainland.”
“Cypriot food, drink and music for later”, Nikos said, winking at Fisher. He had overheard their conversation. “Come on Professor, let’s take a closer look at this island.”
Fisher could hardly refuse the offer, eager as he was to explore the place. They spent the rest of the day tentatively exploring the mysterious buildings and structures. Nikos and his friend, who was named Kostas, had brought torches with them, and so Amelia and Fisher were able to go deep into the interiors of the myriad temples and constructions on the isle. Many of the buildings had the designs on the outside similar to the ones that Fisher had initially spotted- the drawings of the eye, hand and fish. There were also designs like this inside. Amelia called them ‘glyphs’ and told Fisher that in the temples further into the island, the designs were more intricate and detailed, telling stories similar to Egyptian hieroglyphs or the Bayeux tapestry. The buildings themselves were separated by perfectly co-ordinated pathways so that the ‘streets’ formed a grid system. This in itself was an impressive piece of design and engineering and again Fisher wondered who could have built this. Had they stumbled across a previously unknown civilisation?
Amelia and the Cypriots had brought a hamper of food with them in the boat, and at midday they rested from their explorations and had some sandwiches and iced tea. Again, Fisher observed the close behaviour of Amelia and Nikos. He wondered how long they had been seeing each other. They appeared to be quite enamoured with each other.
Later that night, at the taverna, Fisher brought up the subject. The taverna had a balcony view over the rugged coastline, and so they could hear the waves gently crashing on to the beaches and cliffs below them. Fisher sat at a table on the balcony with Amelia, Nikos and Kostas, and they had already ordered food and drink. It was warm enough to eat outside. Inside the taverna, in a far corner, a musician was playing Greek songs.
The Cypriot government had set up spotlights around the islet, and switched them on to light up the temples and mysterious structures at night. It was partly to alert passing ships during the hours of darkness. Fisher could see the expanse of the islet behind Nikos’ shoulder, and he was very aware of the prominent orange glare which lit up the archways, steps and turrets of the ancient temples and monuments there. He thought the effect looked unsettling and eerie, even at this distance and from the high vantage point of the taverna’s balcony.
“So how did you meet Nikos?” Fisher asked Amelia.
She picked at her food and glanced shyly at him, before glancing at Nikos. He was sipping his wine and gave her a quick smile back. She must know that he suspected she was seeing the younger man, Fisher thought. “Nikos is a student of mine in Nicosia”, she replied. “We met last year. He was in my teaching classes.”
“She’s a very good teacher”, Nikos added, with a smile toward Fisher.
“I’m sure she is!” Fisher said. “So what do you think of that place?” He nodded toward the islet. “It’s strange isn’t it? Who do you think built it?”
“I don’t know”, Nikos replied. “But…” He glanced at Amelia.
“It’s like you said, Richard”, Amelia said, wiping her mouth with her napkin. “It’s very similar to the design of Aztec temples…and the also the buildings of the Incas. Perhaps there were similar civilisations and cultures in that period, spanning the world from the Americas to Europe, before land mass shifted. The recent earthquake brought a section of lost, preserved land from the ocean-depths, from that time.”
“Atlantis”, the man named Kostas said. It was the first time he had spoken at the table. He was generally quiet, and Fisher assumed that was because his command of English was not the best. Nikos smiled at him, while Amelia laughed.
“Atlantis is a myth”, she said.
“The ancient lost city of Atlantis”, Fisher mused. “What was it that Plato said? An island that lay between the ‘Pillars of Hercules’, and there existed a confederation of kings, of great and marvellous power, which held sway over the island. We’re in the wrong location though. The Pillars of Hercules were at the Gibraltar Strait, nowhere near Cyprus.”
“Actually there have been plenty of proposed sites for Atlantis in the Mediterranean, Richard”, Amelia said. “Cyprus itself, Turkey, numerous Greek islands, Malta, Sicily, Crete, Sardinia…not just Gibraltar or the Atlantic Ocean. But it’s a legend of course.”
“Of course”, Fisher said quickly. “A myth that has a romantic and mysterious attraction, though.”
“However, people have already started talking about the Atlantean theory”, Nikos interjected. “The Turkish mentioned it too. This story will go public very soon. Already we have had journalists visiting here, and it won’t be very long.”
“What was that all about today?” Fisher suddenly asked, frowning. “The policeman who came there briefly, spoke to you and then left. You said you would explain something to me about why he was checking us out there.”
Amelia hesitated. She and Nikos exchanged glances again, and then the Cypriot student spoke on her behalf. “Professor Fisher, a month ago we had a full team working in that place. We were taking notes, photographs, exploring, recording- everything. Then something happened.”
Fisher froze with his fork halfway to his mouth. “What do you mean?”
“We lost someone”, Amelia said flatly.
“Lost someone?” Fisher stared at her. “_What do you mean?_”
“A man went missing. A local, who was helping us”, Amelia told him. “After that, everything was put on hold. The police began an investigation. The Cypriot government wanted an enquiry. Everything was put on hold, and after that we need special permission to continue research there.”
“What happened to this man?” Fisher asked. “You think he wandered too far into the depths of that place, got caught in water and drowned?”
“It’s the obvious explanation”, Amelia said. “The Cypriots wanted to send in a team with divers to try and search for him, but in the end it was blocked, partly because they did not want to disturb anything of historic interest. We were given permission to map and chart this place.”
“The people here…they think that it is an evil place”, Nikos said. Amelia frowned, and Fisher suddenly sensed an atmosphere between them. “They won’t go anywhere near it.”
“It’s local superstition”, Amelia said dismissively. “Nonsense.”
“Of course”, Nikos said. “They are simple people, villagers. But…there is something strange there. An atmosphere. You don’t feel it when you’re in a group there, but…you definitely feel it when you’re alone. What do you think, Professor Fisher?”
Fisher gazed over Nikos’ shoulder, to the view across the water to where the towers and walls of the strange islet were lit up by spotlights. In the darkness of the night, the place certainly looked sinister. Yet most old, remote places always did by night. “I agree with Amelia, it’s just superstition and nonsense”, Fisher said finally. “People are scaring themselves with tales of Atlantis and their imaginations are running wild with the mystery of it all. This missing man probably went too far, got lost and drowned in a submerged section of the isle, which just emphasises how careful and organised we have to be.”
Amelia was nodding. “I completely agree, Richard. I’m glad you’re here.”
Nikos only shrugged, while his companion Kostas remained as silent as ever.
Kostas, who had only drank mineral water all evening, drove Fisher back to his hotel in Paralimni. Before he left, Fisher had informed Nikos and Amelia that tomorrow he wished to start by analysing the glyphs and exploring the catacombs.
Back at his hotel, Fisher lay on his bed and reflected upon the events of the day. Certainly, this was the most unusual situation he’d ever come across in his years as an archaeologist. The presence of this previously submerged isle baffled him. It was unreal that the buildings had been preserved so perfectly as this over the course of time. It had even occurred to him that this might even be an elaborate hoax. Yet he had seen the evidence and the physical fact of those wonderful structures with his own eyes, and he knew that nothing like that had ever been reported in this region before. It was unfortunate about the man that had gone missing, but the stability of the land mass and the structures both above and beneath sea level meant that there was a certain risk involved. Despite that knowledge, he could not wait to explore more deeply tomorrow.
The four members of the team met at the site the next morning. It was mid-morning to be precise, and the sun was almost at its highest point for the day. It was as hot as it had been the previous day. Amelia, Nikos and Kostas had brought water, food, torches, video cameras and notebooks for the day’s work. Fisher had also brought his own notebook and water with him. They discussed their plan of action before separating and entering four different temples. They would meet and share their findings afterward, at midday.
Fisher chose to climb a building with a steep stairway of wide steps that led up to a platform, upon which was a much smaller structure. The building itself was about sixty feet high, and when he reached the top of the steps he discovered that he had another excellent view, similar to the view from the coast but much closer. He could see more structures extending for about five hundred metres beyond. He estimated that the land mass was about three quarters of a kilometre in length. Toward the far side of the isle, the buildings there were half-submerged in water until eventually only the tips and peaks of buildings were visible above the waters of the Mediterranean. It was as if the land had tilted, and that which was nearest the mainland was the highest ground level.
Fisher entered the structure at the top of the temple, which was like the building he had entered yesterday, but was much smaller, forming a room rather than a great hall. The atmosphere was the same though: damp, gloomy and redolent of oceanic climes and sea-water.
In the midst of the room there was a rectangular stone construction. Fisher approached it and inspected it closely under the light of his torch, but there was no further ornamentation or detail. However, the beam of his torch caught something out of the corner of his eye.
There were inscriptions on the far wall. Fisher shone the beam of his torch across them. They were examples of the glyphs that Amelia had been talking about at dinner the previous evening. Intrigued, Fisher approached the wall, shining the full beam of the torch across the designs.
The drawings were detailed, and complex. Even after the passage of so many years, the lines of inscription had survived. Fisher could see clear images drawn of human beings, people and landscapes. He moved to what he assumed was the beginning of the story and followed each ‘scene’ under the light of his torch as he walked slowly across. Each scene appeared to follow in consecutive chronological order.
The first image showed a village of small huts, in a desert. Above, the shape of the sun beat down upon the landscape, with its rays clearly marked out.
The second image showed the same village, but this time at night. A crescent in the sky marked the shape of the moon.
The third image showed the village again, with people clearly marked in the image, wandering around the huts, talking with each other, or roasting food on a spit. The sun was shown in the sky again.
In the fourth image, the story became interesting. It showed the people in the village again, but this time they had a visitor. There was another being in the image which was depicted as much taller and greater than the normal people in the village. He wore a cloak and around his head there were rays similar to those drawn around the image of the sun in the first and third image. The people were all looking toward him, and some were kneeling.
In the fifth image, it was night again. Only this time, there were visitors. There were many of them. Under the crescent moon, beings with more than one limb, fanged mouths and terrible eyes chased the human beings around the village. The faces of the creatures were monstrous and even though they were merely depicted as inscription upon stone, made Fisher shudder.
In the sixth image, the figures of three people stood around a body of a fallen person, lying on what looked like a small altar or plinth, similar to the one that Fisher had seen in this very structure. The three figures held their arms up imploringly toward the heavens, in a gesture of supplication.
In the seventh and final image, all three figures were kneeling. The body of the man on the altar was being devoured by another fanged half-human monster. Around them were more of the hideous creatures, more numerous than they had been in the fifth image. There were hordes of them.
Fisher placed his torch between his teeth and took out his notebook. As he noted down details of each of the images in this Glyph-story, he reflected upon what he was seeing depicted here. It did not make much sense to him, but it seemed to be an evil myth or nightmarish legend that was portrayed. The figure in the fourth image could be some kind of sun-god, but he had no idea who the fanged human-like monsters were, who only came out at night. They reminded him of vampires. The sixth and seventh images seemed to depict a sacrifice, perhaps.
After he had finished making notes, he looked at his watch. It was five minutes past twelve already. The time had passed quickly while he was studying the glyphs. He left the structure and walked back down the steps. At the foot of one of the great temples, and by the channel of the sea that separated the isle from the mainland, Nikos stood waiting. He had already started to prepare some food for Fisher and the others.
Fisher had already started eating when Amelia arrived back from her investigation. “Well, what do you think?” she asked him.
“I saw an interesting set of glyphs”, Fisher said, swallowing a mouthful of ham sandwich. “Have you looked at them closely? The set I saw was rather sinister, I have to say.”
“In what way?”
“Quite frightening, to be honest. It showed some monsters with fangs, like vampires, eating people. And a sacrifice, and worship to a sun-god? Do other glyphs here portray something similar?”
“All the glyphs”, Nikos said quietly, before Amelia could reply. “All the glyphs show depictions of the monsters. It’s as if the people that once lived here were visited by something terrible.”
Amelia frowned. “I don’t think that the people in those glyphs were the ones who built this place.”
“Why not?” Fisher asked, curious.
“The normal human beings shown in the glyphs are always depicted as living in small villages”, Amelia explained. “They live in huts. They don’t live in the extraordinary buildings and temples that we see here around us.”
“Do you think that these images show their stories, their old myths?” Fisher asked. “These could be the source of their culture, their religion. The temples could have been built as places of sacrifice, to ward off evil spirits and worship their gods. The people depicted as living in the huts are their ancestors. That is my theory.”
Amelia nodded slowly. “It makes sense”, she said. “Why the obsession with those fanged monsters though, Richard? I can show you the same monsters depicted in countless glyphs here.”
They fell silent, and continued to eat their lunch in the shadows of the ancient buildings. A good few minutes passed before Nikos broke the silence. “It is half past twelve already”, he said. “Where is Kostas?”
Amelia frowned. “He wasn’t with you?”
“No. He entered another building.” Nikos stood up, and shielded his eyes against the sun. He looked in the distance toward several other buildings beyond those immediate to them. “I can show you which one.”
Fisher stood up as well. “We should go and look for him. He might have had an accident, and slipped or something. The interiors of these buildings are quite damp from the seawater.”
“Christ, the last thing we need is someone else missing”, Amelia muttered harshly, getting up as well. “We had better find him, Nikos.”
“Show us the building he went into”, Fisher said, picking up his torch.
Nikos led them along the walkways to a smaller structure fifty metres from the shoreline with an archway entrance. As they entered the structure, they switched on their torches. Fisher experienced the same oceanic miasma that he had sensed in the previous two buildings that had entered. The place was damp and gloomy, and their footsteps echoed against the vast ceiling and walls. Fisher flashed the beam of his torch across the walls, and saw the same type of glyphs here that he had seen at the temple earlier. Even from where he stood, he could see the terrible monster-faces depicted on the walls.
“Kostas?” Amelia shouted. Her voice was sharp, and brusquely interrupted the silence. It seemed to echo ominously within this great hall, and beyond. For some reason, it made Fisher cringe. “Kostas, are you here? Where are you? Kostas!”
“Look”, Nikos said. He was shining his beam into a far corner of the hall. There was another opening there, another arched doorway. Beyond it, they could just make out a tunnel, which became shrouded in darkness.
“Where does that go, do you think?” Fisher murmured.
“We’ve seen tunnels like that before”, Amelia said quietly. “We haven’t gone in too deep, in case we get lost. There is a vast network of tunnels here. This place has catacombs, some of which possibly go deep under the sea.”
“Well, it’s obvious where he has gone”, Fisher said. He hoped that the batteries in his torch were long lasting. “Who wants to go in there and look for him?”
“I can’t”, Amelia said quickly. “I’m claustrophobic and I’m scared of getting lost. I’ll wait here for you.”
Fisher chuckled. “Okay. I’ll go by myself then…”
“I’ll come with you”, Nikos said. “He’s my friend. I’m sure that he cannot have gone far.”
“Be careful”, Amelia said as they entered the tunnel, shining their torches along the gloomy corridor of darkness. Nikos took the lead, with Fisher following close behind.
The depth and width of the tunnel was not consistent, as it wound further and further away from the entrance. The walls became more wet and slimy to the touch the deeper they progressed. It seemed that they walked along it for ages, although Fisher knew that they had been walking down it for less than five minutes. Every so often Nikos called out Kostas’ name. His cry echoed back to him, with no reply. Privately, Fisher cursed Kostas for being such a fool, and walking so far from the entrance from the building. Hadn’t they made it clear to each other that this was just a preliminary, initial investigation of the site?
Fisher was worried about the battery in his torch, and so was about to suggest turning back when Nikos abruptly stopped and cried out. Something had caught his attention. He flicked the beam of his torch quickly across the path of the tunnel in front of them, as if attempting to see something.
“What’s the matter?” Fisher asked.
“I saw something”, Nikos said quietly. “Kostas!” he shouted. This time his voice did not echo. There was a sudden, terrible silence but Fisher somehow sensed they were not alone. The hair was standing up on the back of his neck.
“What did you see?” he murmured to Nikos. He joined the Cypriot in waving his beam around the path of the tunnel ahead of them. For several moments he could not see anything within the spotlights of their respective beams but then…what was that? Had there been something? He thought he had detected something…a flicker of movement. He altered the path of his beam and scanned the tunnel ahead of them. Nothing. Perhaps he and Nikos had imagined it, or it was just some kind of small animal lurking in the tunnel. It could easily have been a mouse, or a rat, or a lizard. They were deep underground and as Amelia had said, it was easy to become claustrophobic and jumpy down here.
“Did you see something too?” Nikos whispered.
“Maybe”, Fisher replied. “Probably a rat, or something like it.” Suddenly his torchlight started to flicker. “Nikos, I think the batteries in my torch are running out. We should get out of here. We’ll have to report Kostas as missing.”
Fisher was already turning to leave, but Nikos remained standing still in the tunnel, shining his torch into the darkness beyond. “I can’t leave him here”, Nikos replied. “He’s here somewhere.”
“We need help to find him”, Fisher said. “It’d be better if we involve the police.”
There was a short pause, and then Nikos lowered his torch. “Maybe you’re right”, he said. Fisher was still looking at him when Nikos turned around to follow him out of the tunnel, and it was only Fisher that saw the terrible face that appeared in the darkness behind Nikos, a face lit up by its own inner hellfire rather than torchlight and floating as if it was disembodied in mid-air. Fisher quickly registered the light blue flesh of the being that had materialised behind Nikos, a creature with glowing scarlet eyes and jaws that were open wide, displaying sharp carnivorous teeth. The terrible vision burned into his line of sight and remained there almost as an after-image upon his eyelids.
Fisher screamed and began to run from what he had glimpsed, his torch flickering more violently than ever. The sound of his thudding heart and footsteps beating heavily on the damp stone surface of the tunnel floor was eventually broken by Nikos’ ear-piercing scream. The sound of his companion’s agony only added to Fisher’s panic. Eventually, Nikos’ blood-curdling scream was abruptly cut off. Fisher did not know how long it took him before he rushed out of the tunnel entrance and found himself again in the building that they’d entered before, or how long it was before his shock and hysteria left him and he was able to speak coherently to Amelia, who was questioning him furiously in the blazing Cypriot sunshine outside.
“Where is Kostas? Richard, where is Nikos? What happened in there?” Fisher could hear the panic and growing frustration in her voice.
“Amelia…” he gasped. He was no longer a young man, and the rigours of his sudden flight had taken a lot out of him. There was a pain in his chest that he hoped was simply heartburn and not something more serious. “Amelia, we have to get out of this place. There’s something…there’s something very wrong here. We need to go to the authorities.”
Amelia was staring at him reproachfully through the thick lenses of her spectacles. “What on earth do you mean? What happened to Nikos? What did you find in there?”
Fisher looked away and did not answer. He knew she would think him a madman.
Giorgios Nicolaides filled in the last section of the report and scratched his chin. “So let me get this straight”, he said in English. “We’ve got two more people missing at your historic site. Nikos Charamboulos and Kostas Panayotiou.”
“That’s right”, Amelia Graves replied. She looked reproachfully at Fisher. They had taken the motorboat from the site back to the mainland, and then driven in Amelia’s car to Paralimni and the police station there. Fisher had barely spoken a word during the journey, and was still in a state of shock.
“And Professor Fisher…you were present when Mr Charamboulos…vanished, is that correct?”
“Yes”, Fisher murmured quietly. He was sat down on one of the chairs in the entrance to the police station, with a vacant expression on his face.
“Can you tell me exactly what happened in there?” Officer Nicolaides asked.
Fisher hesitated. He knew that if he told Amelia and Giorgios Nicolaides exactly what he thought he had seen, then they would both think that he was a madman. He could scarcely credit it himself. In the idyllic sunshine of the Cypriot weather, such horrors even now seemed a million miles away once again. Had he imagined it? Had his hysteria got the better of him? Yet something terrible had happened to Nikos, even if his overactive mind had somehow imagined something supernatural and frightening in the incident. Had he been under too much pressure at work before he came out here? Had the atmosphere and strange location of the site got to him? Had he thought too deeply about the images in the glyphs, and somehow projected those images upon his mind so that he had seen things in the depths of that tunnel?
“I’m not sure”, Fisher replied with a stammer. “I think…I think something or somebody grabbed Nikos when we were in the tunnel.”
Amelia’s mouth dropped open. “There was somebody else there?” she asked.
Nicolaides was scribbling notes. “Did you see whoever it was?” he asked.
Fisher hesitated again. It was not worth the ridicule to be honest about what he saw, or had thought he had seen down there, and he wanted the police to take him and the investigation seriously. “I…I really didn’t get a good look at them”, he answered. “It was dark, and I …panicked.”
“I see”, Nicolaides said. He finished scribbling his notes. “Well, if there are people lurking about in that place, hiding in the tunnels, then it is best we send in a large team of men, properly equipped. I won’t be able to organise this and send them out there until tomorrow. I am sorry about this but…it’s our priorities, you know?”
“Officer, that is absurd, we need to find Nikos quickly…” Amelia said, red spots of frustration appearing in her cheeks.
“Dr Graves, I suggest you go to your apartment and that Professor Fisher goes back to his hotel”, Nicolaides replied. “We need to conduct a thorough search and investigation and due to the nature of that place we cannot do that until tomorrow. I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry”, Amelia said quietly. She turned round and marched out of the police station. “Come on Richard.” Fisher met the steady gaze of the police officer where he stood behind the counter, before following Amelia outside.
In the dazzling sunshine outside, she stood on the pavement and turned to face him. “What did you see?” she demanded to know. “Who took him? One man? Two? Is he still alive?”
“I don’t know”, Fisher replied solemnly. “I don’t think he’s alive, Amelia. I heard him scream…a terrible, terrible scream.”
“You ran? You didn’t try to help him?” Amelia was looking at him almost accusingly. Suddenly he felt deeply slighted by her behaviour. She hadn’t seen what he had seen. A person can fight men but…a monster?
“It…it happened so quickly”, Fisher protested. “We were deep underground, in the tunnel. My first instinct was to run. You said yourself, how creepy and claustrophobic it is down there.”
“Richard, we’re going back”, Amelia said firmly. “I’m not leaving Nikos there. We have to go back there and find him.”
A university professor. An archaeologist. A strange discovery in the Mediterranean. The city beneath the waves. Atlantis? Or the source of an ancient, sinister horror?