then he heard a noise out on the other end of the hall, or at least
thought he did, the sound of something suddenly sliding along the floor
until it came to rest under the resistance of its own friction, like
someone accidentally kicking a stone shard as they walked. In that
instant, Mancuso knew he was not alone and rebuked himself for wallowing
in self-gratifying nostalgia.
that he could not be seen by someone in the hall, Mancuso moved the sofa
aside a little. Squatting down to where the sofa had been he
whispered a word of command to the light cylinder. The light
changed from white to red. When he directed the red light on the
floor, ancient characters and symbols appeared. He touched five of
these symbols in what appeared to be a random sequence. Stale air
escaped with a hiss through cracks before unseen on the stone floor.
He quickly lifted the slab loose and pushed it to the side.
Nothing but a small wooden chest with tarnished brass bands lay
underneath. Removing the chest and carrying it under his left arm
he returned to the entrance.
neither heard nor saw movement outside, but he knew better. That
rock didn’t fall. It was kicked.
main passage lay back the way he came and he would have to pass whoever
was out there to get to it and this visitor was not going to greet him
with affection. Fortunately, the architects of the Old Fortress
laid out the barracks in keeping with the old tradition of separating
the officer from the common soldier. Since they considered
commanders as part of the officer class, they built a narrow hall
connecting all of the commanders quarters. This allowed the
officers to meet in private but still have quarters near their men.
They divided the barracks into sections of 50 rooms, two soldiers to a
room with 25 rooms on each sided of a hall and the commanders quarters
at the end of each hall. A great corridor joined each of the
“halls of hundreds” and a narrow hall joining the quarters of the
commanders of hundreds.