FORTY-TWO

VIENNA, AUSTRIA

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10:50 AM

ALFRED HERMANN BID HIS GOODBYES TO THE POLITICAL Committee and excused himself from the dining room. He'd been told that his special guest had finally arrived.

He navigated the ground-floor corridors and entered the chateau's spacious foyer just as Henrik Thorvaldsen shuffled in from outside. He slipped a smile onto his face and said in English, "Henrik. So wonderful to see you."

Thorvaldsen also smiled as he spotted his host. "Alfred. I wasn't going to come, but I decided I simply had to visit with everyone."

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Hermann approached and shook hands. Forty years he'd known Thorvaldsen and the Dane had changed little. The stiff, crooked spine had always been there, bent at a grotesque angle like a piece of hammered tin. He'd always admired Thorvaldsen's disciplined emotions, which stayed studied, mannered, as if he were running through a memorized program. And that required talent. But Thorvaldsen was a Jew. Not devout or overt, but still Hebrew. Even worse, he was Cotton Malone's close friend, and Hermann was convinced that Thorvaldsen had not come to the Assembly to socialize.

"I'm glad you're here," Hermann said. "I have much to talk to you about."

They often spent time together at the Assembly. Thorvaldsen was one of the few members whose fortune could compete with the Hermanns'. He was deeply connected to most European governments, and his billions of euros spoke for themselves.

A twinkle appeared in the Dane's eyes. "I'm anxious to hear it all."

"And who is this?" Hermann asked, motioning to the young lad standing beside Thorvaldsen.

"Gary Malone. He's with me for a few weeks while his father is away and I decided to bring him."

Fascinating. Thorvaldsen was testing him. "Wonderful. There are a few other young people who have come with members. I'll see to it that they are all properly entertained."

"As I knew you would."

Stewards entered with luggage. Hermann motioned and the bags were hauled to the second floor. He'd already designated which bedchamber Thorvaldsen would occupy.

"Come, Henrik. To my study while your belongings are situated. Margarete is anxious to see you."

"But I have Gary."

"Bring him. It'll be fine."

MALONE ATE HIS BREAKFAST AND TRIED TO ASSESS JIMMY McCollum, though he seriously wondered whether that was the man's real name.

"You going to tell me what your interest in all this is?" McCollum asked. "The Library of Alexandria isn't exactly the Holy Grail. Others have looked, but they're usually fanatics or kooks. You don't look like either."

"Neither do you," Pam said. "What's your interest?"

"What happened to your shoulder?"

"Who said anything did?"

McCollum scooped a forkful of eggs into his mouth. "You've been cradling it like it's broken."

"Maybe it is."

"Okay, you're not going to tell me." McCollum faced Malone. "Lot of mistrust here for a person who saved both your asses."

"She asked a good question. What's your interest in the library?"

"Let's just say that if I were to find something, there are people who would reward my efforts in a great many ways. Personally, I think it's a waste of time. But I do have to wonder why men are killing each other. Somebody knows something."

Malone decided to cast a little bait into the water. "The hero's quest you mentioned. I know about it. Clues that lead the way to the library." He paused. "Supposedly."

"Oh, they do. Believe me. Others have been. I've never met or talked to one of them, but I've heard about the experience. The hero's quest is real, as are the Guardians."

Another key word. This man was well informed. Malone turned his attention back to an English muffin, which he lathered with plum jam. "What can we do for each other?"

"How about you tell me why you went to Bainbridge Hall?"

"The Epiphany of St. Jerome."

"Now, that's a new one. Care to explain?"

"Where you from?" Malone suddenly asked.

McCollum chuckled. "You still sizing me up? Okay, I'll play along. Born in the great state of Kentucky. Louisville. And before you ask, no college. Army. Special forces."

"Like, if I check I'm going to find a recruit named Jimmy McCollum? Time for you to get real."

"Hate to tell you, but I have a passport and a birth certificate and you'll find my name there. Did my stint. Honorable discharge. But does all that really matter? Seems the only thing that counts is here and now."

"What are you after?" Malone asked.

"I'm hoping there's plenty there when this library is found, though I still don't know your interest."

"This quest might prove a challenge."

"Now, that's the first thing you've said that makes sense."

"I mean, there are others who might be looking, too."

"Tell me something I don't know."

"How about the Israelis?"

He caught a moment of puzzlement in McCollum's lively eyes, then clarity returned, along with a smile. "I do love a challenge."

Time to reel him in. "We have The Epiphany of St. Jerome."

"Lot of good that'll do if you don't know its significance."

Malone agreed.

"I have the hero's quest," McCollum said.

That revelation grabbed Malone's attention, especially since George Haddad had not left them the details of that journey.

"What I want to know is," McCollum said, "is do you have Thomas Bainbridge's novel?"

Pam was still eating, working on some fruit and yogurt. She certainly knew the first rule of lawyering-never reveal what you know-but he decided that to receive he was going to have to give. "I do." Then to tantalize his listener, he added, "And more."

McCollum scrunched his face in admiration. "I knew I'd chosen well when I decided to save your hide."

HERMANN WATCHED AS THORVALDSEN AND HIS YOUNG WARD left his study. Margarete stood beside him. They'd had a pleasant thirty-minute visit.

"Your thoughts?" he asked his daughter.

"Henrik was his usual self. Taking in far more than he gives."

"That's his nature, as it is mine." And it should be yours, too, he thought. "Sense anything?"

She shook her head.

"Nothing about the boy?" he asked.

"He seemed well mannered."

He decided to tell her some of what she did not know. "Henrik is peripherally involved with an initiative the Circle is presently pursuing. It's critical to what we discussed at breakfast."

"The Library of Alexandria?"

He nodded. "One of his close associates, a man named Cotton Malone, is part of what's happening."

"Sabre running the operation?"

"Quite well. Everything is going as planned."

"The boy is named Malone. He part of it, too?"

"Cotton Malone's son."

Her face showed surprise. "Why is he here?"

"Actually, that was smart on Henrik's part. With members present, we'll all be on our best behavior. This could be the safest place for them both. Of course, accidents sometimes happen."

"You'd hurt the boy?"

He stared hard. "I'll do what's necessary to protect our interests. As you should be willing to do."

She said nothing and he allowed her a moment. Finally she said, "Do we need an accident to happen?"

He was glad she was beginning to appreciate the gravity. "Depends on what our dear friend Henrik has in mind."

"HOW'D YOU GET THAT NAME?" MCCOLLUM ASKED. "COTTON."

"Actually it's quite-," Pam began.

Malone cut her off. "Long story. We can discuss it another time. Right now, I want to know about the hero's quest."

"You always that touchy about your name?"

"What I'm touchy about is wasted time."

McCollum was finishing a plate of fruit. He noticed that the man ate healthy. Oatmeal, strawberries, eggs, juice.

"Okay, Malone. I have the quest. I retrieved it from an invitee who died before going."

"Your doing?"

"Not this time. Natural causes. I found him and I stole the quest. Don't ask me who, because I'm not telling. But I have the clues."

"And do you know if they're real?"

McCollum chuckled. "In my business you never know that until you get there. But I'll take my chances."

"What do you really need?" Pam asked. She'd stayed uncharacteristically quiet during breakfast. "Obviously you know more than we do. Why waste your time with us?"

"To be honest, I have a problem. For the past few weeks I've wrestled with the quest. It's a riddle. One I can't solve. I thought you two might be of some help. In return, I'm willing to share what I know."

"And you're willing to shoot two men in the head," Malone said.

"They would have done the same to you. Which, by the way, ought to give you pause. Who'd want to do that?"

An excellent question, Malone thought. No one had followed them from London, of that he was sure. It made no sense that killers would be waiting for them at Bainbridge Hall. He'd only decided to visit there a few hours ago.

"This quest," McCollum said, "has a lot more to it than I first thought. Now you tell me the Jews are also involved."

"A friend of mine was killed yesterday, which should end Israel's interest."

"This friend know anything about the library?"

"It's what got him killed."

"He's not the first."

He needed to know something. "I assume you'd want to peddle the found manuscripts to dealers?"

McCollum shrugged. "I want to profit for my trouble. That bother you?"

"If the manuscripts still exist, they would need to be preserved and studied."

"I'm not greedy, Malone. Surely somewhere in the find would be a few scraps I could sell for my trouble." McCollum paused. "Along with credit for the find, of course. That would be worth something all by itself."

"Fame and fortune," Pam said.

"The time-immemorial reward," McCollum said. "They both have their satisfying aspects."

He'd heard enough. "Tell us the clues."

McCollum sat before them, aloof as a deity, mischievous as a demon. This one bore watching. He killed far too easily. But if he possessed the hero's quest, then he might be their only path forward.

McCollum reached into his pocket and produced a slip of paper. "That's how it starts off."

Malone accepted the note-sized sheet and read.

How strange are the manuscripts, great traveler of the unknown. They appear separately, but seem as one to those who know that the colors of the rainbow become a single white light. How to find that single ray? It is a mystery, but visit the chapel beside the Tejo, in Bethlehem, dedicated to our patron saint.

"Where's the rest?" he asked.

McCollum chuckled. "Figure this part out, then we'll see. One step at a time."

Malone stood.

"Where you going?" McCollum asked.

"To earn my keep."

FORTY-THREE

WASHINGTON, DC

5:30 AM

STEPHANIE HAD FACED MANY THINGS, BUT NEVER ARREST. Larry Daley was upping the ante.

"We need to strike at Daley now," she made clear.

She, Green, and Cassiopeia were standing in Green's kitchen, coffee brewing on the counter. The aroma reminded her that she was hungry.

"What do you have in mind?" Cassiopeia asked.

Not once in twelve years had she compromised the Billet's security. She took her oath to heart. But an abyss of doubt made her unsure of what to do next. She finally decided there was but one option and said, "We were investigating Daley."

A new earnestness swept over Green's face. "Explain."

"I wanted to know what made the man tick, so I assigned an agent to find out. She worked him, off and on, for nearly a year. I learned a lot."

"You continue to amaze me, Stephanie. Do you know what would have happened if he'd found out?"

"Guess I would have been fired, so what does it matter now?"

"He's trying to kill you. Perhaps he does know."

"I doubt it. She was good. But Daley is up to his eyeballs in trouble. You said earlier that you never found any violations of law. I did. Lots of them. Campaign finance, bribery, fraud. Daley's the pipeline for what people of means need from the White House, people who don't want their names on disclosure forms."

"Why didn't you move on him?"

"I was planning to-then this leak occurred. It had to wait."

"And now that he's in charge of the Magellan Billet, will he find out what you did?" Cassiopeia asked.

She shook her head. "I have all the information locked away, and the agent who handled the investigation transferred from the Billet months ago. No one other than she and I knew."

Green poured coffee into two mugs. "What do you want to do?"

"Since I have my friend here, who possesses a multitude of skills, I thought we'd finish the investigation."

"I don't like the sound of that," Cassiopeia said.

Green motioned. "You ladies add what you like to your coffee."

"None for you?" Stephanie asked.

"Never drink it."

"Then why do you have a coffeemaker?"

"I do have guests." He paused. "Occasionally."

Green's solidity, his masculine dependability, yielded for an instant to a boyish sincerity, and she liked it.

"Anyone I know?" she asked.

Green smiled.

"You're full of surprises," she said.

"A lot like somebody else we all know," Cassiopeia said, sipping her coffee.

Green nodded, seeming to like the change of topic. "Henrik is a fascinating man. Always a step ahead. But what about you, Stephanie? What do you mean about finishing the investigation?"

She savored the steaming brew and allowed a sip to warm her throat. "We need to pay a visit to his house."

"Why?" Cassiopeia asked. "Even if we manage to get inside, his computer is surely secured by a password."

She smiled. "Not a problem."

Green scanned her with an air of curiosity, then he could no longer conceal his astonishment. "You don't need a password, do you?"

She shook her head and said, "Time to nail that SOB."

MALONE ENTERED THE SAVOY'S BUSINESS CENTER. THE SPACIOUS facility was fully equipped with computers, faxes, and copiers. He told the attendant what he needed and was quickly ushered to a terminal, the charge applied to McCollum's room.

He started to sit, but Pam cut him off.

"May I?" she asked.

He decided to allow her the honor. On the walk over from the cafe he'd seen that she knew what he intended to do.

"Why not? Have at it."

He handed her the sheet with the beginning of the quest then faced McCollum. "You said you acquired this recently?"

"No. I didn't mention a time. Nice try, Malone."

"I need to know. It's important. In the last few months?"

Their benefactor hesitated, then nodded.

Malone had been thinking. "From what I know, the Guardians have been inviting people to the library for centuries. So the clues have to change. They'd adapt the quest to its time. I'm betting they even adapt it to the invitee. Why not? Make it personal. They go to a lot of trouble for everything else. Why not this?"

McCollum nodded. "Makes sense."

Pam was pounding the keyboard.

"The first part," Malone said. "How strange are the manuscripts, great traveler of the unknown. They appear separately, but seem as one to those who know that the colors of the rainbow become a single white light. How to find that single ray? That's bullshit. Just a way of saying there's a lot of information. But the next part, It is a mystery, but visit the chapel beside the Tejo, in Bethlehem, dedicated to our patron saint. That's where we start."

"Got it," Pam said.

He smiled. She was ahead of him, and he liked that.

"I did a search on Tejo and Bethlehem."

"Isn't that too easy?" McCollum asked.

"The Guardians can't be oblivious to the world. The Internet exists, so why wouldn't they assume an invitee would use it?"

He stared at the screen. The website Pam had found was for Portugal, a travel and tourism page that dealt with local attractions in and around Lisbon.

"Belem," Pam said. "Just outside downtown. Where the River Tejo meets the sea. Belem is Portuguese for "Bethlehem.""

He read about the point of land southwest of central Lisbon. The spot where Portuguese caravels had long ago set out for the Western world. Da Gama to India, Magellan to circumnavigate the globe, Dias to round the Cape of Good Hope. Belem eventually flourished thanks to the riches-mainly spices-that poured into the country from the New World. The Portuguese king built a summer palace there, and wealthy citizens flocked to surround it. Once a separate municipality, now it was a magnet for tourists who came to enjoy its shops, cafes, and museums.

"Henry the Navigator is connected to the locale," Pam said.

"Let's find out," he said, "about a chapel dedicated to our patron saint."

A few clicks of the mouse and Pam pointed at the screen. "Way ahead of you."

A monstrous building of weathered stone filled the screen. Elaborate spires reached for a cloudy sky. The look combined Gothic and Renaissance architecture with obvious Moorish influences. Bold images dotted the stone façade.

"The Monastery of Santa Maria de Belem," he noted from the screen.

Pam scrolled down, and he read that it was one of Portugal's best-known monuments, often referred to as the Jer��nimos Monastery. Many of the country's greatest figures, including its kings and queens, were entombed there.

"Why did this show up?" he asked Pam.

She clicked on a link.

"I typed in several key words and the search engine pointed straight here. In 1498, when da Gama returned from his voyage after discovering the route to India, the Portuguese king granted funds for the building of the monastery. The Order of St. Jerome took possession of the site in 1500, and the foundation stone was laid on January 6, 1501."

He knew the significance of that date from his childhood. His mother had been Catholic and they'd attended church regularly, especially after his father died. January 6. The Feast of the Epiphany.

What had Haddad written in his journal?

Great quests often begin with an epiphany.

"The main chapel at the monastery," Pam said, "was eventually dedicated to St. Jerome. Cotton, you remember what Haddad said about him."

He did. An early church father who, in the fourth century, translated many scriptural texts into Latin, including the Old Testament.

"There's a link to more on Jerome," she said, and the screen changed with another click of the mouse.

They all three read. Malone saw it first. "He's the patron saint of libraries. Looks like this quest starts in Lisbon."

"Not bad, Malone."

"We earn our keep?"

"Like I said, I'm lousy with puzzles. You two seem good at them. But the rest is tougher."

He grinned. "How about we take a stab at it together and see where it leads?"

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