EIGHTY-SEVEN

WASHINGTON, DC

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MONDAY, OCTOBER 10

8:30 AM

STEPHANIE SAT IN THE OVAL OFFICE. SHE'D BEEN THERE MANY times, mostly feeling uncomfortable. But not today. She and Cassiopeia had come to meet with President Daniels.

Brent Green had been buried yesterday in Vermont with honors. The press had lauded his character and achievements. Democrats and Republicans said he would be missed. Daniels himself had delivered the eulogy, a moving tribute. Larry Daley had been buried, too, in Florida, without fanfare. Only some family and a few friends. Stephanie and Cassiopeia had both attended.

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Interesting how she'd read both men wrong. Daley wasn't a saint by any means, but he wasn't a murderer or a traitor. He'd tried to stop what was happening. Unfortunately, what was happening had stopped him.

"I want you back at the Magellan Billet," Daniels said to her.

"You might find that hard to explain."

"I don't have to explain myself. I never wanted you to go, but I had no choice at the time."

She wanted her job back. She liked what she did. But there was another matter. "What about bribing Congress?"

"I told you, Stephanie. I knew nothing about that. But it stops here and now. Just like with Green, though, the country won't benefit from that kind of scandal. Let's end it and move on."

She wasn't necessarily sure of Daniels's lack of complicity, but she agreed. That was the better course.

"No one will ever know anything that happened?" Cassiopeia asked.

Daniels was sitting behind his desk, feet propped on the edge, his tall frame leaning back in his chair. "Not a word."

The vice president had resigned Saturday, citing differences over policy with the administration. The press had been clamoring to get him on camera but had so far been unsuccessful.

"I imagine," Daniels said, "my ex-vice president will be trying to make a name for himself. There'll be a few public squabbles between us over policy, things like that. He might even make a try for the next election. But I'm not afraid of that fight. And speaking of fights, I need you to keep an eye on the Order of the Golden Fleece. Those folks are trouble. We've cut their legs out from under them for now, but they'll stand up again."

"And Israel?" Cassiopeia asked. "What about them?"

"They have my pledge that nothing from the library will ever be released. Only Cotton and his ex-wife know where it is, but I'm not even going to note that anywhere. Let the damn thing stay hidden." Daniels looked at Stephanie. "You and Heather make peace?"

"Yesterday at the funeral. She truly liked Daley. She told me some things about Larry I never knew."

"See, you shouldn't be so judgmental. Green ordered Daley's death after he studied those flash drives. They pointed to leaks in the dike and he moved to plug them. Heather's a good agent. She does her job. Green and the vice president would have destroyed Israel. They didn't give a damn about nothing except themselves. And you thought I was a problem."

Stephanie smiled. "I was wrong about that, too, Mr. President."

Daniels motioned at Cassiopeia. "Back to building your castle in France?"

"I've been absent for a while. My employees are probably wondering about me."

"If yours are like mine, as long as the paychecks keep coming, they're happy." Daniels stood. "Thanks to both of you for what you did."

Stephanie stayed seated. She sensed something. "What is it you're not saying?"

Daniels's eyes gleamed. "Probably a whole bunch."

"It's the library. You were awfully cavalier about it a moment ago. You're not going to let it stay hidden, are you?"

"Not for me to decide. Somebody else is in charge of that one and we all know who he is."

MALONE LISTENED AS THE BELLS OF COPENHAGEN BANGED loud for three PM. Højbro Plads was busy with its usual midday crowd. He, Pam, and Gary sat at an outdoor table, having just finished lunch. He and Pam had flown back from Egypt yesterday, after spending Saturday with the Guardians while they honored George Haddad.

He motioned for the check.

Thorvaldsen stood fifty yards away, supervising the remodeling of Malone's shop, which had started last week while they were away. Scaffolding now embraced the four-story façade, and workers were busy inside and out.

"I'm going to tell Henrik goodbye," Gary said, and the boy rushed from the table through the crowd.

"That was sad Saturday with George," Pam said.

He knew there was still a lot on her mind. They hadn't talked much about what had happened in the library.

"You all right?" he asked.

"I killed a man. He was a sorry piece of crap, but I still killed him."

He said nothing.

"You stood up," she said. "Faced him, knowing I was back there. You knew I'd shoot."

"I wasn't sure what you'd do. But I knew you'd do something, and that's all I needed."

"I've never fired a gun before. When Haddad gave it to me, he told me to just point and shoot. He knew I'd do it, too."

"Pam, you can't sweat it. You did what you had to."

"Like you did all those years." She paused. "I want to say something, and it's not easy."

He waited.

"I'm sorry. I really am, for everything. I never knew what you went through out there. I thought it was ego, macho male stuff. I just didn't get it. But now I do. I was wrong. About a great many things."

"That makes two of us. I'm sorry, too. For everything that went wrong all those years."

She held up her hands in surrender. "Okay, I think that's enough emotion for us both."

He extended his hand. "Peace?"

She accepted the gesture. "Peace."

But then she bent close and gently kissed him on the lips. He hadn't expected that, and the sensation chilled his nerves.

"What was that for?"

"Don't get any ideas. I think we're both better off divorced, but that's not to say I don't remember."

"So how about neither one of us forgetting?"

"Fair enough," she said. After a pause she added, "What about Gary? What do we do? He needs to know the truth."

He'd thought about that dilemma. "And he will. Let's give it a little time and then we'll all three have a talk. I'm not sure it's going to matter much, from any of our points of view. But you're right, he's entitled to the truth."

He paid the check and they walked over to Thorvaldsen and Gary.

"I'll miss this boy," Henrik said. "He and I make a good team."

Malone and Pam had heard all about what happened in Austria.

"I think he's had more than enough intrigue," Pam said.

Malone agreed. "Back to school for you. Bad enough all the stuff you were into." He saw that Thorvaldsen understood his meaning. They'd talked about that yesterday. And though he was upset at the thought of Gary tackling a man holding a gun, secretly he was proud. No Malone blood coursed through the boy's veins, but enough of the father had seeped into the son to make him his in every way that counted. "Time for you guys to go."

The three of them walked to where the square ended and Jesper waited with Thorvaldsen's car.

"You had enough intrigue, too?" Malone asked Jesper.

The man only smiled and nodded. Thorvaldsen had said yesterday that two days with Margarete Hermann had been about all Jesper could stand. She'd been released on Saturday when Thorvaldsen and Gary flew back to Denmark. From what Thorvaldsen had said about Hermann, their father-daughter relationship was not to be envied. Blood did indeed tie them, but not much else.

He hugged his son and said, "I love you. Take care of your mother."

"She doesn't need me to do that."

"Don't be so sure."

He faced Pam. "If you ever need me, you know where I am."

"Same for you. If nothing else, we do know how to watch each other's backs."

They hadn't told Gary about what had happened in the Sinai, and they never would. Thorvaldsen had agreed to take the Guardians under his wing and provide funds to maintain the monastery and library. Already plans were in the works to electronically archive the manuscripts. Also, some recruitment would occur and the Guardians' ranks would be restored to a respectable number. The Dane had been thrilled at the prospect of aiding and was looking forward to visiting the site soon.

But it would all remain secret.

Thorvaldsen had assured Israel that the matter was contained and, with the United States likewise providing assurances, the Jews seemed satisfied.

Pam and Gary climbed into the car. Malone waved as the vehicle disappeared into traffic, headed for the airport. He then wove through the crowd to where Thorvaldsen watched as workmen cleared rubble from his building.

"All put to rest?" Henrik asked.

He knew what his friend meant. "That demon's gone."

"The past can really eat your soul."

He agreed.

"Or be your best friend."

He knew what Thorvaldsen meant. "It will be amazing to see what's in that library."

"No telling what treasures await."

He watched men on the scaffolding as they steam-cleaned the sixteenth-century exterior of soot.

"It'll look as good as it once did," Thorvaldsen said. "Up to you to restore the inventory. Lots of books to buy."

He was looking forward to it. That's what he did. A bookseller. But there was a point to be made from the lessons he'd learned over the past few days. He considered again how all three Malones had been threatened, and what really mattered. He pointed to the building.

"None of this is all that important."

The Dane cast him an understanding smile.

"It's just stuff, Henrik. That's all. Just stuff."

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