<h3>Excerpt</h3> <div><div> <h2>CHAPTER 1</h2> <p>The man stood still, scanning the night for movement. Seeing none, he stepped off the cobbled path and moved through a cluster of crypts, looking for a place to rest. He found four low tombs and swept a bouquet of flowers from the edge of one before sitting down. He listened for a moment then pulled a canvas bag onto his lap, reassured by the muffled clunk of the tools inside.</p> <p>He rummaged in the bag and pulled out the map he'd drawn on his first visit to the cemetery, two weeks ago. Leaning forward, he pointed his headlamp at the ground before switching it on, holding the map in its yellow glow and running his eyes over the familiar lines and circles.</p> <p>A breeze passed through the trees and he heard the rustle of leaves, like sighs of relief after a long, hot day. The gentle draft reached him and ruffled the page in his hand, caressed his cheek. He clicked off the lamp and looked up, savoring the coolness, and he shut his eyes for just a moment, tipping his head back so the sweat on his throat could dry.</p> <p>Behind him, a scraping sound.</p> <p>He looked over his shoulder at a pair of oak trees, blacker even than the moonless night, their limbs reaching out to each other like uncertain strangers, sightless branches jostling each other to touch the wind.</p> <p>Taking a deep breath to relax himself, he turned his eyes to the concrete headstone at his back, suddenly curious about whose bones were beneath him. He switched his headlamp on and its light drew shadows out of the raised letters on a brass plaque. He mouthed the words <i>James Douglas Morrison</i>. Below the name it read, <i>1948–1971</i>. A string of letters under the dates made no sense to him. Latin or Greek, perhaps.</p> <p>He put the lamp and his map back into the bag and pulled out a water bottle, half empty from his long and dusty journey to this place. Two long swigs were all he allowed himself, and he put the bottle away.</p> <p>He stiffened as voices drifted in from the path that he'd just left, conspiratorial whispers that wound between the stone and concrete tombs, soft words given form by the clarity of the night.</p> <p>Two voices, a man and a woman.</p> <p>In a moment his bag was open again, thick fingers gripping the butt of the gun he'd never used, a .22 Ruger he'd bought from a drunk outside a bar in Montmartre three months ago.</p> <p>He slid the bag onto the ground and moved so he could see the path, his small feet stepping on the firm soil between patches of gravel, moving him silently between the stone slabs. As a boy, his mother had laughingly called him <i>mon petit scarabée</i>, my little scarab, for the way he could scuttle about the house without being seen, popping up where least expected to startle her, or, if <i>he</i> was there, to make his father turn red and growl.</p> <p>The Scarab peered around a tall tombstone into the darkness and saw the couple coming toward him, arm in arm, heads close. They walked slowly, swaying as if they were drunk, holding each other up as their feet scuffed over the cobblestone path. They wore matching outfits: black T-shirts and camouflage pants tucked into military-style boots.</p> <p>And they had no idea he was there.</p> <p>He thought about letting them pass, he almost wanted to, but they made the decision for him by stopping ten yards away.</p> <p>"His grave should be here," the woman said. "You have the candle?"</p> <p>They were speaking English, the man thought. He spoke English, too. <i>Un petit peu.</i></p> <p>"Yeah, sure." The man slipped off a backpack. "Somewhere."</p> <p>"This is so exciting," the woman said, her voice a stage whisper, breathless. She had olive skin and dark hair pulled back into a ponytail. Green eyes, the Scarab guessed.</p> <p>He knew where they were going, where so many damn Americans went: to pay homage to a drug addict and alcoholic, a man who squandered his musical gifts and destroyed every piece of his talent with a needle. If they had the sense to recognize the power of the grave, he thought, they should have the sense to seek out those whose bones had something positive to offer.</p> <p>He watched from the shadows as they stood at the edge of the path. His breath caught in his throat and he felt a stab of anxiety as he realized: <i>They'll see my bag.</i></p> <p>He squeezed the grip of the pistol that hung by his side, as if reminding himself of its presence. He couldn't risk them seeing his tools, raising the alarm.</p> <p>He stepped out of the shadows and walked toward them, his gun parting the darkness in front of him. He trod carefully, quietly. He was the Scarab, scuttling out from between the stone tombs, unexpected and unseen until he was close enough to see their eyes widen and their mouths drop open.</p> <p>He knew what they were seeing, too, and the fact that they looked at his face for so long before seeing the gun told him so. He'd seen that look when he didn't have a gun in his hand, gotten it all his life. They were seeing a man barely five feet tall, the height of a child but with the stocky build of a professional, adult wrestler. They were seeing the face he'd gotten from his father, the long thick chin under wide cheek bones, and the narrow slits for eyes that sat deep, hidden, and unreadable. Eyes that were black holes bored into the base of an unusually high forehead, which itself ended with the spirals of copper wire that sprang across the crown of his head.</p> <p>He watched them as they watched him and, when they'd taken all of him in, he decided that no words were necessary. He aimed at the man, pointing the gun toward his chest, squeezing the trigger softly like he'd practiced in his apartment. Now, though, instead of a <i>click</i> he heard a sharp crack. Once, then a second time after he'd brought the little gun under control, and in the dark night he heard the man fall onto the cobbles of the Avenue de la Chappelle. He looked over at the woman. She seemed to be hyperventilating, with one hand clamped over her mouth, as if quieting herself would circumvent the inevitable.</p> <p>He was pleased so far. Such a small gun but so effective and easy to use.</p> <p>He inched his aim to the left, covering the woman, the girl, his finger firm on the trigger. It crossed his mind, for just a moment, that he could do more with her than he could with the man, exert control and make her ... <i>do things</i> for him.</p> <p>Their eyes met and held, but not for long enough to see whether he'd been right about their color. She was looking at his gun, her mouth working silently, and then her eyes flicked back to his face as her left arm rose from her side, stiff, and she put her hand out as if she were a policewoman stopping traffic. The Scarab stared at her palm for a moment, so white in the darkness, her fingers so delicate and frail, a desperate gesture from a girl who had nothing else to offer. A spiderweb to stop a train.</p> <p>He pulled the trigger, again a gentle squeeze that wouldn't mess up his aim. The crack seemed louder than before, more satisfying to the Scarab, and it sent a bullet through the middle of her palm and into her shoulder. Her hand flew up and then fell back to her side, and the girl let out a high-pitched whine as she took a step back, her head shaking in disbelief. The Scarab moved forward to see the expression on her face.</p> <p><i>Surprise and confusion</i>, he thought. <i>But mostly fear.</i></p> <p>She looked down at her hand, which released blood onto the path in a thick stream. Then she looked up, directly into his eyes, and opened her mouth wide.</p> <p>The Scarab didn't wait for her to scream. He shot her again, jerking the trigger three times, knowing he couldn't miss from so close, and she crumpled to the ground without making another sound.</p> <p>He knelt between their bodies, as much to listen for other intruders as to admire his work, and, as darkness and silence wrapped themselves around the cemetery once again, he ran his hands over the body of the girl. Her limbs were heavy, her throat was warm, and her lips dry. Her eyes weren't eyes any more, just glassy beads, lifeless. Green beads. He tried to close her lids but they didn't stay down, not all the way, so he left her like that, half asleep, half peeking up at a starless night.</p> <p>He rose, went to his bag, and took out the charm. It won't be going to the right person, tonight was no longer safe for him, but it could go to this girl. He wiped his prints from the figurine and, carefully, placed it on her chest.</p> <p>He straightened and turned to the man. He kicked him in the head, just in case, and the body seemed to sigh. But when he kicked it again, it just rocked a little, silent.</p> <p>An owl hooted close by and he looked at his watch, seeing the second hand ticking around too fast, realizing that his heart was ticking too quickly, also. He slowed it with twenty seconds of deep breathing, the wind stroking his brow like the gentle hand of his mother.</p> <p>Which made him think of one more thing he should do. </div></div><br/> <i>(Continues...)</i> <!-- Copyright Notice --> <div><blockquote><hr noshade size="1"><font size="-2">Excerpted from <b>THE CRYPT THIEF</b> by <b>MARK PRYOR</b>. Copyright © 2013 by Mark Pryor. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books.<br/>All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br/>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.</font><hr noshade size="1"></blockquote></div>