An antique mahogany campaign writing box is purchased from an old man at the Dirt Market in Beijing. A gold bishop's cross is found inside a secret compartment, long hidden since the last days of the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. At the centre of the cross is a large Columbian emerald, said to be cursed. In another secret compartment there is an unﬁnished letter telling of a brass chest containing church treasures and relics looted by the Boxers. The chest had been liberated from the Boxers by a captain of the Bengal Lancers and buried by him somewhere in the city once known as Peking. The captain had written to his wife telling her of its location, but the letter never left his writing box. After discovering its contents, the two Australians who bought the box return to China in search of the chest, hoping against hope that its hiding place has not been disturbed by the frenzy of development that has recently overtaken Beijing. But others have learned of their quest and, in the cold mist of Beijing's winter, what had seemed like a simple task back in their leafy riverside Brisbane suburb, has now become a deadly game.