TWENTY

LONDON

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1:20 PM

MALONE CLIMBED FROM THE TAXI AND STUDIED THE QUIET street. Lots of gabled façades, fluted side posts, and flowery sills. Each of the picturesque Georgian houses seemed a serene abode of antiquity, a place that would naturally harbor bookworms and academics. George Haddad should be right at home.

"This where he lives?" Pam asked.

"I hope so. I haven't heard from him in nearly a year. But this is the address I was given three years ago."

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The afternoon was cool and dry. Earlier, he'd read in The Times how England was still in the midst of an unusual autumn drought. String Bean had not followed them from Heathrow, but perhaps someone else had taken up the task since the man was clearly in communication with others. Yet no other taxis were in sight. Strange still having Pam with him, but he deserved the feeling of awkwardness. He'd asked for it by insisting she come.

They climbed the stoop and entered the building. He lingered in the foyer, out of sight, watching the street.

But no cars or people appeared.

The bell for the flat on the third floor gave a discreet tinkle. The olive-skinned man who answered the door was short and doughy, with ash-white hair and a square face. Brown eyes came alive when he saw his guest, and Malone noticed an instant of repressed excitement in the broad grin of welcome.

"Cotton. What a surprise. I was just thinking of you the other day."

They warmly shook hands and Malone introduced Pam. Haddad invited them in. Daylight was dimmed by thick lace curtains and Malone quickly absorbed the decor, which seemed an intentional mismatch-there was a piano, several sideboards, armchairs, lamps adorned with pleated silk shades, and an oak table where a computer was engulfed by books and papers.

Haddad waved his arm as if to embrace the clutter. "My world, Cotton."

The walls were dotted with maps, so many that the sage-green wall covering was barely visible. Malone's gaze raked them, and he noted that they depicted the Holy Land, Arabia, and the Sinai, their time line varying from modern to ancient. Some were photocopies, others originals, all interesting.

"More of my obsession," Haddad said.

After a genial exchange of small talk, Malone decided to get to the point. "Things have changed. That's why I'm here." He explained what had happened the day before.

"Your son is okay?" Haddad asked.

"He's fine. But five years ago I asked no questions because that was part of my job. It's not anymore, so I want to know what's going on."

"You saved my life."

"Which ought to buy me the truth."

Haddad led them into the kitchen, where they sat at an oval table. The tepid air hung heavy with a lingering scent of wine and tobacco. "It's complicated, Cotton. I've only in the past few years understood it myself."

"George, I need to know it all."

An uneasy understanding passed between them. Old friendships could atrophy. People changed. What was once appreciated between two people became uncomfortable. But Malone knew Haddad trusted him, and he wanted to reciprocate. Finally the older man spoke. Malone listened as Haddad told them about 1948 when, as a nineteen-year-old, he'd fought with the Palestinian resistance, trying to stop the Zionist invasion.

"I shot many men," Haddad said. "But there was one I never forgot. He came to see my father. Unfortunately that blessed soul had already killed himself. We captured this man, thinking him a Zionist. I was young, full of hate, no patience, and he spoke nonsense. So I shot him." Haddad's eyes moistened. "He was a Guardian and I killed him, never learning anything." The Palestinian paused. "Then, fifty-some years later, incredibly, another Guardian visited me."

Malone wondered about the significance.

"He appeared at my home, standing in the dark, saying the same thing that the first man said in 1948."

"I'm a Guardian."

Had Haddad heard right? The question formed immediately in his mind. "From the library? Am I to be offered an invitation?"

"How do you know that?"

He told the man what had happened long ago. As he spoke, Haddad tried to assess his guest. He was wiry with coal-black hair, a thick mustache, and sun burned skin that bore the texture of tawny leather. Neat and quietly dressed, with a manner to match. Not unlike the first emissary.

The younger man sat silent and Haddad decided this time he, too, would be patient. Finally the Guardian said, "We've studied your writings and your published research. Your knowledge of the Bible's ancient text is impressive, as is your ability to interpret the original Hebrew. And your arguments on the accepted translations are persuasive."

He appreciated the compliment. Those came few and far between in the West Bank.

"We're an ancient band. Long ago the first Guardians saved much of the Library of Alexandria from destruction. A great effort. From time to time-to those, like yourself, who could benefit-we've offered an invitation."

Many questions formed in his mind, but he asked, "The Guardian I shot said that the war we were fighting back then wasn't necessary. That there are things more powerful than bullets. What did he mean?"

"I wouldn't know. Obviously your father failed to appear at the library, so he never benefited from our knowledge-and we did not benefit from his. Hopefully, you'll not fail."

"What do you mean failed to appear?"

"To have the right to use the library you must prove yourself through the hero's quest." The man produced an envelope. "Interpret these words wisely and I'll see you at the entrance, where it will be my honor to allow you into the library."

He accepted the packet. "I'm an old man. How could I possibly take a long journey?"

"You'll find the strength."

"Why should I?"

"Because in the library you will find answers."

"My mistake," Haddad said, "was telling the Palestinian authorities about that visit. I spoke the truth, though. I couldn't make the journey. When I reported what happened, I thought I was speaking with friends in the West Bank. But Israel's spies heard everything, and the next thing I knew you and I were in that cafe when it exploded."

Malone recalled the day. One of the scariest in his life. He'd barely managed to extricate them both.

"What were you doing there?" Pam asked him, concern in her voice.

"George and I had known each other for years. We share an interest in books, especially the Bible." He pointed. "This man is one of the world's experts. I've enjoyed picking his brain."

"I never knew you had an interest," Pam said.

"Apparently there was a lot neither one of us knew about the other." He saw that she registered his true meaning, so he let that truth hang and said, "When George sensed trouble and didn't trust the Palestinians, he asked for my help. Stephanie sent me to find out what was happening. Once that bomb went off, George wanted out. Everyone assumed he died in the blast. So I made him disappear."

"Code-named the Alexandria Link," Pam said.

"Someone obviously found out about me," Haddad declared.

Malone nodded. "The computer files were breached. But there's no mention of where you live, just that I'm the only one who knows your whereabouts. That's why they went after Gary."

"And for that I'm truly sorry. I would never want to place your son in jeopardy."

"Then tell me, George, why do people want you dead?"

"At the time the Guardian visited me, I was working on a theory regarding the Old Testament. I'd previously published several papers on the then-current state of that holy text, but I was formulating something more."

The lines at the corners of Haddad's eyes deepened, and Malone watched as his friend seemed to struggle with his thoughts.

"Christians tend to focus on the New Testament," Haddad said. "Jews use the Old. I daresay most Christians have little understanding of the Old Testament, beyond thinking that the New is a fulfillment of the Old's prophecies. But the Old Testament is important, and there are many contradictions in that text-ones that could readily call its message into question."

He'd heard Haddad speak on the subject before, but this time he sensed a new urgency.

"Examples abound. Genesis gives two conflicting versions of creation. Two varying genealogies of Adam's offspring are laid out. Then the flood. God tells Noah to bring seven pairs of clean animals and one pair of unclean. In another part of Genesis it's just one pair of each. Noah releases a raven to search for land in one verse, but it's a dove in another. Even the length of the flood is contradicted. Forty days and nights or three hundred seventy? Both are used. Not to mention the dozens of doublets and triplets contained within the narratives, like the differing names used to describe God. One portion cites YHWH, Yahweh, another Elohim. Wouldn't you think at least God's name could be consistent?"

Malone's memory flashed back a few months to France, where he'd heard similar complaints about the four Gospels of the New Testament.

"Most now agree," Haddad said, "that the Old Testament was composed by a host of writers over an extremely long period of time. A skillful combination of varied sources by scribal compilers. This conclusion is absolutely clear and not new. A twelfth-century Spanish philosopher was one of the first to note that Genesis 12:6-at that time the Canaanites were in the land-could not have been written by Moses. And how could Moses have been the author of the Five Books when the last book describes in detail the precise time and circumstances of his death?

"And the many literary asides. Like when ancient place-names are used, then the text notes that those places are still visible to this day. This absolutely points to later influences shaping, expanding, and embellishing the text."

Malone said, "And each time one of these redactions occurred, more of the original meaning was lost."

"No doubt. The best estimate is that the Old Testament was composed between 1000 and 586 BCE. Later compositions came around 500 to 400 BCE. Then the text may have been tinkered with as late as 300 BCE. Nobody knows for sure. All we know is that the Old Testament is a patchwork, each segment written under differing historical and political circumstances, expressing differing religious views."

"I appreciate all that," Malone said, thinking again about the New Testament contradictions from France. "Believe me, I do. But none of it is revolutionary. Either folks believe the Old Testament is the Word of God, or they believe it a collection of ancient tales."

"But what if the words have been altered to the point that the original message is no longer there? What if the Old Testament, as we know it, is not, and never was, the Old Testament from its original time? Now, that could change many things."

"I'm listening."

"That's what I like about you," Haddad said, smiling. "Such a good listener."

Malone could see from Pam's expression that she didn't necessarily agree, but, keeping to her word, she stayed silent.

"You and I have talked about this before," Haddad said. "The Old Testament is fundamentally different from the New. Christians take the text of the New literally, even to the point of it being history. But the stories of the Patriarchs, Exodus, and the conquest of Canaan are not history. They're a creative expression of religious reform that happened in a place called Judah long ago. Granted, there are kernels of truth to the accounts, but they're far more story than fact.

"Cain and Abel is a good example. At the time of that tale there were only four people on earth. Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. Yet Genesis 4:17 says Cain lay with his wife and she became pregnant. Where did the wife come from? Was it Eve? His mother? Wouldn't that be eye opening? Then, in recounting Adam's bloodline, Genesis 5 says that Mahalale lived eight hundred ninety-five years, Jared eight hundred years, and Enoch three hundred sixty-five years. And Abraham. He was supposedly a hundred years old when Sarah gave birth to Isaac, and she was ninety."

"No one takes that stuff literally," Pam said.

"Devout Jews would argue to the contrary."

"What are you saying, George?" Malone asked.

"The Old Testament, as we currently know it, is a result of translations. The Hebrew language of the original text passed out of usage around 500 BCE. So in order to understand the Old Testament, we must either accept the traditional Jewish interpretations or seek guidance from modern dialects that are descendants of that lost Hebrew language. We can't use the former method because the Jewish scholars who originally interpreted the text, between 500 and 900 CE, a thousand or more years after they were first written, didn't even know Old Hebrew, so they based their reconstructions on guesswork. The Old Testament, which many revere as the Word of God, is nothing more than a haphazard translation."

"George, you and I have discussed this before. Scholars have debated the point for centuries. It's nothing new."

Haddad threw him a sly smile. "But I haven't finished explaining."

TWENTY

LONDON

1:20 PM

MALONE CLIMBED FROM THE TAXI AND STUDIED THE QUIET street. Lots of gabled façades, fluted side posts, and flowery sills. Each of the picturesque Georgian houses seemed a serene abode of antiquity, a place that would naturally harbor bookworms and academics. George Haddad should be right at home.

"This where he lives?" Pam asked.

"I hope so. I haven't heard from him in nearly a year. But this is the address I was given three years ago."

The afternoon was cool and dry. Earlier, he'd read in The Times how England was still in the midst of an unusual autumn drought. String Bean had not followed them from Heathrow, but perhaps someone else had taken up the task since the man was clearly in communication with others. Yet no other taxis were in sight. Strange still having Pam with him, but he deserved the feeling of awkwardness. He'd asked for it by insisting she come.

They climbed the stoop and entered the building. He lingered in the foyer, out of sight, watching the street.

But no cars or people appeared.

The bell for the flat on the third floor gave a discreet tinkle. The olive-skinned man who answered the door was short and doughy, with ash-white hair and a square face. Brown eyes came alive when he saw his guest, and Malone noticed an instant of repressed excitement in the broad grin of welcome.

"Cotton. What a surprise. I was just thinking of you the other day."

They warmly shook hands and Malone introduced Pam. Haddad invited them in. Daylight was dimmed by thick lace curtains and Malone quickly absorbed the decor, which seemed an intentional mismatch-there was a piano, several sideboards, armchairs, lamps adorned with pleated silk shades, and an oak table where a computer was engulfed by books and papers.

Haddad waved his arm as if to embrace the clutter. "My world, Cotton."

The walls were dotted with maps, so many that the sage-green wall covering was barely visible. Malone's gaze raked them, and he noted that they depicted the Holy Land, Arabia, and the Sinai, their time line varying from modern to ancient. Some were photocopies, others originals, all interesting.

"More of my obsession," Haddad said.

After a genial exchange of small talk, Malone decided to get to the point. "Things have changed. That's why I'm here." He explained what had happened the day before.

"Your son is okay?" Haddad asked.

"He's fine. But five years ago I asked no questions because that was part of my job. It's not anymore, so I want to know what's going on."

"You saved my life."

"Which ought to buy me the truth."

Haddad led them into the kitchen, where they sat at an oval table. The tepid air hung heavy with a lingering scent of wine and tobacco. "It's complicated, Cotton. I've only in the past few years understood it myself."

"George, I need to know it all."

An uneasy understanding passed between them. Old friendships could atrophy. People changed. What was once appreciated between two people became uncomfortable. But Malone knew Haddad trusted him, and he wanted to reciprocate. Finally the older man spoke. Malone listened as Haddad told them about 1948 when, as a nineteen-year-old, he'd fought with the Palestinian resistance, trying to stop the Zionist invasion.

"I shot many men," Haddad said. "But there was one I never forgot. He came to see my father. Unfortunately that blessed soul had already killed himself. We captured this man, thinking him a Zionist. I was young, full of hate, no patience, and he spoke nonsense. So I shot him." Haddad's eyes moistened. "He was a Guardian and I killed him, never learning anything." The Palestinian paused. "Then, fifty-some years later, incredibly, another Guardian visited me."

Malone wondered about the significance.

"He appeared at my home, standing in the dark, saying the same thing that the first man said in 1948."

"I'm a Guardian."

Had Haddad heard right? The question formed immediately in his mind. "From the library? Am I to be offered an invitation?"

"How do you know that?"

He told the man what had happened long ago. As he spoke, Haddad tried to assess his guest. He was wiry with coal-black hair, a thick mustache, and sun burned skin that bore the texture of tawny leather. Neat and quietly dressed, with a manner to match. Not unlike the first emissary.

The younger man sat silent and Haddad decided this time he, too, would be patient. Finally the Guardian said, "We've studied your writings and your published research. Your knowledge of the Bible's ancient text is impressive, as is your ability to interpret the original Hebrew. And your arguments on the accepted translations are persuasive."

He appreciated the compliment. Those came few and far between in the West Bank.

"We're an ancient band. Long ago the first Guardians saved much of the Library of Alexandria from destruction. A great effort. From time to time-to those, like yourself, who could benefit-we've offered an invitation."

Many questions formed in his mind, but he asked, "The Guardian I shot said that the war we were fighting back then wasn't necessary. That there are things more powerful than bullets. What did he mean?"

"I wouldn't know. Obviously your father failed to appear at the library, so he never benefited from our knowledge-and we did not benefit from his. Hopefully, you'll not fail."

"What do you mean failed to appear?"

"To have the right to use the library you must prove yourself through the hero's quest." The man produced an envelope. "Interpret these words wisely and I'll see you at the entrance, where it will be my honor to allow you into the library."

He accepted the packet. "I'm an old man. How could I possibly take a long journey?"

"You'll find the strength."

"Why should I?"

"Because in the library you will find answers."

"My mistake," Haddad said, "was telling the Palestinian authorities about that visit. I spoke the truth, though. I couldn't make the journey. When I reported what happened, I thought I was speaking with friends in the West Bank. But Israel's spies heard everything, and the next thing I knew you and I were in that cafe when it exploded."

Malone recalled the day. One of the scariest in his life. He'd barely managed to extricate them both.

"What were you doing there?" Pam asked him, concern in her voice.

"George and I had known each other for years. We share an interest in books, especially the Bible." He pointed. "This man is one of the world's experts. I've enjoyed picking his brain."

"I never knew you had an interest," Pam said.

"Apparently there was a lot neither one of us knew about the other." He saw that she registered his true meaning, so he let that truth hang and said, "When George sensed trouble and didn't trust the Palestinians, he asked for my help. Stephanie sent me to find out what was happening. Once that bomb went off, George wanted out. Everyone assumed he died in the blast. So I made him disappear."

"Code-named the Alexandria Link," Pam said.

"Someone obviously found out about me," Haddad declared.

Malone nodded. "The computer files were breached. But there's no mention of where you live, just that I'm the only one who knows your whereabouts. That's why they went after Gary."

"And for that I'm truly sorry. I would never want to place your son in jeopardy."

"Then tell me, George, why do people want you dead?"

"At the time the Guardian visited me, I was working on a theory regarding the Old Testament. I'd previously published several papers on the then-current state of that holy text, but I was formulating something more."

The lines at the corners of Haddad's eyes deepened, and Malone watched as his friend seemed to struggle with his thoughts.

"Christians tend to focus on the New Testament," Haddad said. "Jews use the Old. I daresay most Christians have little understanding of the Old Testament, beyond thinking that the New is a fulfillment of the Old's prophecies. But the Old Testament is important, and there are many contradictions in that text-ones that could readily call its message into question."

He'd heard Haddad speak on the subject before, but this time he sensed a new urgency.

"Examples abound. Genesis gives two conflicting versions of creation. Two varying genealogies of Adam's offspring are laid out. Then the flood. God tells Noah to bring seven pairs of clean animals and one pair of unclean. In another part of Genesis it's just one pair of each. Noah releases a raven to search for land in one verse, but it's a dove in another. Even the length of the flood is contradicted. Forty days and nights or three hundred seventy? Both are used. Not to mention the dozens of doublets and triplets contained within the narratives, like the differing names used to describe God. One portion cites YHWH, Yahweh, another Elohim. Wouldn't you think at least God's name could be consistent?"

Malone's memory flashed back a few months to France, where he'd heard similar complaints about the four Gospels of the New Testament.

"Most now agree," Haddad said, "that the Old Testament was composed by a host of writers over an extremely long period of time. A skillful combination of varied sources by scribal compilers. This conclusion is absolutely clear and not new. A twelfth-century Spanish philosopher was one of the first to note that Genesis 12:6-at that time the Canaanites were in the land-could not have been written by Moses. And how could Moses have been the author of the Five Books when the last book describes in detail the precise time and circumstances of his death?

"And the many literary asides. Like when ancient place-names are used, then the text notes that those places are still visible to this day. This absolutely points to later influences shaping, expanding, and embellishing the text."

Malone said, "And each time one of these redactions occurred, more of the original meaning was lost."

"No doubt. The best estimate is that the Old Testament was composed between 1000 and 586 BCE. Later compositions came around 500 to 400 BCE. Then the text may have been tinkered with as late as 300 BCE. Nobody knows for sure. All we know is that the Old Testament is a patchwork, each segment written under differing historical and political circumstances, expressing differing religious views."

"I appreciate all that," Malone said, thinking again about the New Testament contradictions from France. "Believe me, I do. But none of it is revolutionary. Either folks believe the Old Testament is the Word of God, or they believe it a collection of ancient tales."

"But what if the words have been altered to the point that the original message is no longer there? What if the Old Testament, as we know it, is not, and never was, the Old Testament from its original time? Now, that could change many things."

"I'm listening."

"That's what I like about you," Haddad said, smiling. "Such a good listener."

Malone could see from Pam's expression that she didn't necessarily agree, but, keeping to her word, she stayed silent.

"You and I have talked about this before," Haddad said. "The Old Testament is fundamentally different from the New. Christians take the text of the New literally, even to the point of it being history. But the stories of the Patriarchs, Exodus, and the conquest of Canaan are not history. They're a creative expression of religious reform that happened in a place called Judah long ago. Granted, there are kernels of truth to the accounts, but they're far more story than fact.

"Cain and Abel is a good example. At the time of that tale there were only four people on earth. Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel. Yet Genesis 4:17 says Cain lay with his wife and she became pregnant. Where did the wife come from? Was it Eve? His mother? Wouldn't that be eye opening? Then, in recounting Adam's bloodline, Genesis 5 says that Mahalale lived eight hundred ninety-five years, Jared eight hundred years, and Enoch three hundred sixty-five years. And Abraham. He was supposedly a hundred years old when Sarah gave birth to Isaac, and she was ninety."

"No one takes that stuff literally," Pam said.

"Devout Jews would argue to the contrary."

"What are you saying, George?" Malone asked.

"The Old Testament, as we currently know it, is a result of translations. The Hebrew language of the original text passed out of usage around 500 BCE. So in order to understand the Old Testament, we must either accept the traditional Jewish interpretations or seek guidance from modern dialects that are descendants of that lost Hebrew language. We can't use the former method because the Jewish scholars who originally interpreted the text, between 500 and 900 CE, a thousand or more years after they were first written, didn't even know Old Hebrew, so they based their reconstructions on guesswork. The Old Testament, which many revere as the Word of God, is nothing more than a haphazard translation."

"George, you and I have discussed this before. Scholars have debated the point for centuries. It's nothing new."

Haddad threw him a sly smile. "But I haven't finished explaining."

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