Hunter of Shadows

Jack Slade #6

by Richard Dawes

An archaeological professor disappears in the jungles of Guatemala while searching for an ancient Mayan city. The professor’s daughter hires Jack Slade to go into the jungle, find him and bring him back. Slade leaves a blood spattered trail as he battles wild natives, gun runners, an evil sorceress bent on ruling the world, and finally confronts, in a battle of power, the ancient magician-king of the Mayan city.


Jack Slade’s grey eyes gleamed darkly as he gazed at the massive, age-rotted tome lying on the table before him. His hands caressed the black leather cover and ridged binding, warped and pitted with age, splotched with green mold that glistened in the light and traced with trembling fingers the title stamped in archaic letters of tarnished gold. The musty bookshop with its rows of shadowed shelves that groaned under the weight of rare books and ancient volumes faded into oblivion. He no longer heard the wind that howled like a tormented soul through the dark winter afternoon. Nor did he register the raindrops that rapped like skeletal fingers against the windowpanes.

Demonic Cults, by Gustave von Dornhoff, was a book for which Slade had been searching for years. Booksellers in America, England, and on the continent had scoured public and private libraries on his behalf, hoping to find the volume. When Aaron Schuyler, the owner of Schuyler’s Rare Books had contacted him that the book had turned up in an occult book collection he had recently acquired from the family of the deceased owner, Slade lost no time in reaching the bookshop.

It was lucky he was in New York when Schuyler’s message reached him, having finished up a tough job for the Diamond Group, the security firm for which he worked. So it was a simple matter to drive down the coast to Langton, where Aaron Schuyler’s bookshop was located. It was not so much information about the cults that interested Slade. He had acquired much firsthand knowledge of demonic cults on his own over the years. It was the autobiographical and initiatory secrets with which Dornhoff had encoded the text that Slade was eager to study.

Dornhoff was a mysterious, shadowy personage, a dark presence moving in the background of many occult groups in Germany and Scandinavia during the sixteenth century. It was whispered that he was an adept of the black arts, and some even hinted that he had made a connection with the Cult of Saturn, one of the most ancient, clandestine, and mysterious currents of initiation known to man. Like a black river, the Cult of Saturn flowed through subterranean channels from the dark mists that preceded history, forming a powerful but dangerous background to many esoteric brotherhoods. It was knowledge of the Saturnian Current that Slade sought and the methods with which the German occultist had made the connection.

Still, he mused, flipping through the parchment pages, brown and crisp with age, and glancing over the text written in letters of faded crimson, such knowledge was not to be sought with impunity. Dornhoff himself had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Supposedly he had contacted a demonic power so awful that it blasted his mind, and in nameless terror, he blew out his brains. Some alleged that the Dark One had taken him, and he now presided in the Nether Regions. Slade smiled at that last, chalking it up to the superstitious dread that occult knowledge conjured in the credulous. Still—his eyes narrowed—it was a warning to tread carefully.

A shadow falling over the pages of the book interrupted his meditations. He looked up into the pale face of Aaron Schuyler, a thin, nervous little man with thinning hair, black eyes and a prominent nose.

“Excuse me, Mr. Slade,” he said in a thin voice, rubbing bony hands together. “There is a young woman who would like to speak to you. I know her father.” He gestured vaguely at the shelves. “I carry many of his books. She has a problem, and—I hope you don’t mind—but I mentioned that you have knowledge of many mysterious things, and she asked if she might speak to you.”

Slade sighed and glanced past the little man to the young woman standing next to the cashier’s counter at the front of the shop. The last thing he wanted to do just then was get involved with someone else’s problems. The job he had just finished in New York had drained his energy and frayed his nerves, and he looked forward to relaxing for several weeks and immersing himself in Demonic Cults. He took a second look at the girl, her figure muffled in a heavy brown coat with a fur collar. The overhead light sparked crimson highlights in her rich auburn hair. Her eyes were large, green, and lustrous. Her cheeks, pink from the cold, were smooth and radiant, and full red lips parted slightly over a round, determined chin.

On second thought, he decided he could at least listen to what she had to say. “It’s alright,” he said. “Tell her to come on over.”

Schuyler returned to the young woman and spoke to her, then Slade watched her walk with fluid grace across the linoleum floor toward him, noting the well-shaped calves above short black boots. She stopped on the opposite side of the table and gazed down at him, and he felt the awesome impact of her luminous green eyes, dancing with golden highlights.

“Pardon me for interrupting you, Mr. Slade,” she began, in a deep voice with a slight huskiness that rippled along Slade’s spine. “But I am in urgent need of a certain type of help, and Aaron—a friend of my father’s—thought you might be able to assist me, or at least point me in the right direction.”

“Sit down.”

She pulled out the chair, slipped off her coat, hung it over the back, and dropped into it, giving Slade a quick glimpse of full breasts beneath a light blue cashmere sweater, slim waist, and flaring hips swathed in a dark brown skirt. A string of pink pearls glimmered expensively in the light, emphasizing the smooth column of her neck.

Regretfully, he closed the book and slid it to the side, then asked, “What can I do for you?”

She took a moment to study him, gazing over his black hair brushed straight back, his cold grey eyes, and harsh bronzed features. She paused to consider his wide, thin lipped mouth, then moved on to his broad shoulders and deep chest, encased in a black leather jacket. She gasped when she sighted the Colt .38 automatic in a black leather holster at his belt, positioned on the left side of the buckle and angled for a cross draw.

She chuckled nervously, revealing straight white teeth. “Somehow I wouldn’t have expected to meet a man like you in a bookstore, poring over a musty tome. You would seem to be more at home on a battlefield.”

Slade grinned, and it transformed his harsh features into a face that was almost handsome. “The breadth of my interests allows me to be at home wherever I happen to be. But that’s beside the point.” He made a throw away gesture with his hand. “Why don’t you tell me about your problem?”

Resting her elbows on the table, she leaned forward and lowered her voice. “My father has disappeared.”

“Perhaps we should start with your name, and the name of your father.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry!” Her smooth cheeks reddened. “It just goes to show how distraught I am. My name is Cathy Morgan. My father is Professor Peter Morgan, the famous archaeologist.”

“Ah...” Slade breathed. “I’ve read some of his books. He specializes in ancient Mesoamerican civilizations. He was the first scientist to date the ruins of Tiahuanaco at over ten thousand years.”

“Yes.” Cathy’s eyes gleamed with pride. “That was quite controversial and added to his fame—or notoriety. He has explored many of the archaeological sites in Central and South America and has made quite a few original discoveries. He details those discoveries in his books.”

“But you say he’s disappeared.”

The gleams in her eyes died suddenly, and she stared morosely at the table for a long moment. When she glanced again at Slade, lines of sorrow etched the corners of her full lips. “A colleague of his died about a year ago—a friend actually—and willed him a cache of documents that he didn’t want falling into the hands of anyone but my father. I remember his excitement when he looked through the papers and found an ancient map, supposedly dated from the days of the Conquistadors, depicting the route to an ancient Mayan city, lost to the world in the jungles of Guatemala for centuries.”

“Why do you have such intimate knowledge of your father’s affairs?”

“My college degree is in history, so it’s natural that I have an interest in the type of archeology my father pursued. I’ve helped him write several of his books, and he shares with me his discoveries and discusses his ideas.”

“All right. Go on.”

She reached into the purse hanging on the back of her chair, pulled out a folded sheet of paper, and spread it out on the table. “This is a map of Guatemala,” she said. “My father took the original with him when he went to Guatemala, but he left this copy with me in case anything happened to him.” She traced a line across the map with a pale pink, manicured fingernail and said, “Most archaeological sites are located somewhere in northern Guatemala. But what makes this site unique is that it is in southern Guatemala along the Honduras border.”

“I understand there’s a lot of unexplored jungle in that area,” observed Slade.

“That is what made it so exciting to my father. He had never explored that area and knew of no other archaeologists who had, so a discovery would be a first for science and another first for him.”

“So what happened?”

“He left his yacht moored in a nameless cove a few miles beneath Puerto Barrios in Guatemala, then hiked into the jungle with a native guide, a security crew, and workers to carry his equipment. He maintained daily radio contact with the captain of the yacht. Then, a week into the journey,” she spread her hands, “all communication ceased.”

“Probably captured or killed by natives,” Slade grunted. “What did the Guatemalan authorities have to say?”

Her fine brows drew together in a frown. “I prefer to hope that he was captured, not killed. Or perhaps his radio just went out. Anyway,” she went on. “This was a clandestine operation. Not knowing what he would find, and preferring to avoid any publicity, he did not notify the Guatemalan authorities, so there was no official authorization for the journey.”

“Wouldn’t the possible mortal danger facing your father induce you to set aside the desire for secrecy and utilize the resources of the Guatemalan government to find him?”

“If you knew my father, you’d realize that notifying the authorities is to be done only as a last resort. He would prefer that I explore all possible options before taking such a step.”

“You had a reason for bringing your problem to me. What do you want me to do about it?”

She leaned toward him, her green eyes narrowed and boring into his. “Aaron said that you work for a security firm—the Diamond Group, I think he said—and that you have experience with this sort of thing.” She pointed to the gun at his belt. “I can see that you are experienced with weapons. Also,” she hesitated, “Aaron hinted at some kind of occult angle to what you do, something about demonic realms that he didn’t want to go into.” She glanced sideways at Demonic Cults resting at Slade’s elbow. “I think that quite by chance I’ve hit upon just the type of man I was hoping to find. Would you please undertake to find my father for me? Price is no object,” she added hastily. “I can pay you significantly above what you usually receive for your services.”

“You’d most likely be wasting your money,” Slade responded coldly. “You don’t need someone with my qualifications. Just hire a well-armed squad of fighting men with a leader capable of reading a map. Have them follow the same route your father took. They’ll find him or his remains somewhere in the jungle. Case closed.”

She glared at him for a long time, her full lips pressed together, red lights of anger smoldering in her eyes. “I see that you can be quite unpleasant when you want to be, Mr. Slade,” she said at last, clipping her words. “This is my father we are discussing, not some abstract algebraic formula. I refuse to believe that he is dead. I need definite proof before I accept that conclusion. I ask you again to head up the search. I can get the fighting men you require. I have a yacht that will take us there. I will pay you whatever you demand. Your qualifications suggest that whatever we discover—on whatever level—you will be able to handle.”

Slade returned her stare. “What aren’t you telling me?” he demanded.

She blinked. “What do you mean?”

“There is more to this story than you’re telling me. I want to know what it is.”





"Jack Slade: Hunter of Shadows" by Richard Dawes


Google Play




? Heat Level: 2