Gates Of Hades

Gregg Loomis


In the 1960s, Robert Padget, an amateur archeologist, had retired from his job in England and was living in the Naples area. For unclear reasons, he suspected there was a historical basis for parts of the epics of Homer and Virgil, particularly those dealing with the Sibyl of Cumae and, nearby, Hades.

When a cave that fit the classical description of the Sibyl's was discovered, Padget was certain that Hades must also exist.

In 1962, he found a series of man-made caverns at the ancient resort town of Baia that included sacrificial altars and tunnels that would have allowed the seemingly mystical appearance and disappearance of priests (as described in the classics). And there was a shallow underground river, the Styx. The series of caves had been methodically filled with dirt, rocks and rubble, the latter dated to the last years of Augustus Caesar (27 B.C. – 14 A.D.). There were traces of sulfur gases but none of the potentially poisonous vapors associated with volcanic regions.

Padget scheduled a press conference in London to announce his discovery, but the timing could not have been worse: November 22,1963 at 6:00 p.m., or early afternoon in Dallas, Texas. Apparently, the conference was never rescheduled and the caves were decreed a hazard by the Italian government and ordered to be sealed.

In 1992, Robert Temple convinced the Italian authorities to let him follow Padget's path. He and his crew took photographs this time, which were reproduced in his book, Netherworld.

Again, the Italians sealed the cave, citing the possibilities of poison gases, unstable earth, etc.


55 ^o, 47', 21'' N

173 ^o, 40', 14' W

North of Atka, Andrean of Islands, Bering Sea

June 12, 0618 Hours

The Russian fishing trawler had to have been the source of the SOS. As big as a WWII aircraft carrier, it was designed to catch, process, and freeze tons of North Pacific cod without leaving the fishing grounds. That was why a number of countries had banned these superships: two or three of them could wipe out a breeding ground in days.

But fishing wasn't what it was doing now.

Captain Edward 'Easy' Rumpmiller stood on the small bridge of the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Reynolds and studied the massive craft through binoculars. Even in the glare of the subarctic spring sun, he could see there were no nets out. The open hatches to the huge holds were covered in a white cloud of gulls feasting on a catch left available to them. The craft was wallowing in the swell, not under power.

That was the reason for the distress signal, of course.

He grimaced. Damn Russians. Fishing illegally within the two-hundred-mile area claimed by the United States, they had the balls to call the U.S. Coast Guard when something happened to their engines. If the world were a sane place, he'd have authority to at least confiscate their catch to cover the taxpayers' expense in rescuing the bastards.

But it wasn't and he didn't.

So, what good was a territorial limit when it only meant you had to help somebody trespassing in it?

'No response, Cap'n.'

Rumpmiller's thoughts on political complexities scattered like a covey of frightened birds as he put down the glasses and nodded to his radioman, Third Class O. D. Peschky. He'd never asked what the initials stood for.

'Try again, all international frequencies.'

He wasn't surprised when that didn't work, either.

He sighed deeply, a man put to useless effort. 'Blast the siren a couple of times. That should wake 'em up.'

Just like the Russians: lose both engines, call for help, and get tanked up on vodka while they waited.

He made a minute adjustment to the binoculars as the shrill clarion echoed across the gray water. Nobody stirring. Bastards must have all passed out. Nothing to do but board, a problematic task since the trawler's deck towered a good thirty feet above his head.

Then he saw it: a rope boarding ladder dangled from just behind the trawler's bow, like the Russkies had anticipated the problem and left it before drinking themselves into a stupor.

'All ahead, prepare boarding party.'

Rumpmiller buckled on the webbed gun belt required for boarding operations. He didn't like this one bit. Climbing up a ladder onto a ship in distress should be all in a day's work, but there was something sinister about the trawler, something he could not have explained.

For the first time in years, he slid back the action of his navy-issue Beretta, making sure he had a full load.

On board, the Russian craft appeared as deserted as it had from the bridge of the Reynolds. Huge hatches yawned open, and the smell of fish about to go bad filled the air, along with the raucous protests of birds frightened away from what was probably the only free meal the Northern Pacific would ever yield them. There was no one on deck, nor could he see anyone through the glass of the bridge above his head.

Rumpmiller could not have explained why he used hand motions rather than verbal orders to direct his armed five-man party to split up and search the ship.

Minutes later, Chief Petty Officer Wilson was back, his face white. 'Sir, you'd better see this.'


But Wilson had already turned his back to lead the way, and the light breeze snatched the words into the emptiness of the Pacific.

At first, Rumpmiller thought his original hypothesis about vodka had been correct; in dealing with Russian seamen, it usually was. The men lying in a lake of drying blood, all eight of them, seemed to have two mouths, the lower one set in a grin.

Acid bile rose in his throat as he realized each man had had his throat cut.

For an instant, Rumpmiller thought he was going to be sick. Somehow he managed to swallow, hoping he was keeping his composure in front of the petty officer. 'Chief, gather the boarding party and search every inch of the ship. Shoot anyone who even looks unfriendly.'

The petty officer started to turn, stopped, and asked, 'Even the holds, sir?'

Rumpmiller wasn't about to have his men smelling like overripe fish if he could avoid it. 'No, secure the holds. Nothing gets in or out. They can be searched when the ship is towed to port.'

Rumpmiller could hear feet running across the steel deck as Wilson's foghorn voice bellowed orders. He swallowed again and felt a little better as he looked around the room. A mess area, he surmised, since a small galley was adjacent. The plastic tabletop was pocked with cigarette burns from overflowing ashtrays. A number of glasses rolled across the floor as the ship rocked back and forth. He had no idea what the ship's full complement would be, but he knew these trawlers were built for a maximum of mechanization and a minimum of manpower. It was possible the whole crew was right here, lying in sticky puddles of their own life fluids.

He shook his head.


If all the crew were here, then who had manned the ship while its crew was being slaughtered like so much

Вы читаете Gates Of Hades
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату