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Read by Rene Auberjonois
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After his wife, Helen, is brazenly abducted before his eyes, Special Agent Pendergast furiously pursues the kidnappers, chasing them across the country and into Mexico. But then, things go terribly, tragically wrong; the kidnappers escape; and a shattered Pendergast retreats to his New York apartment and shuts out the world.
But when a string of bizarre murders erupts across several Manhattan hotels-perpetrated by a boy who seems to have an almost psychic ability to elude capture-NYPD Lieutenant D’Agosta asks his friend Pendergast for help. Reluctant at first, Pendergast soon discovers that the killings are a message from his wife’s kidnappers. But why a message? And what does it mean?
When the kidnappers strike again at those closest to Pendergast, the FBI agent, filled anew with vengeful fury, sets out to track down and destroy those responsible. His journey takes him deep into the trackless forests of South America, where he ultimately finds himself face to face with an old evil that-rather than having been eradicated-is stirring anew… and with potentially world-altering consequences.
Confucius once said: “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, first dig two graves.” Pendergast is about to learn the hard way just how true those words still ring.
Table of Contents
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THE WOMAN WITH THE VIOLET EYES WALKED slowly beneath the trees of Central Park, hands deep in the pockets of her trench coat. Her older brother walked beside her, his restless eyes taking in everything.
"What time is it?" she asked, yet again.
"Six o'clock precisely."
It was a mild evening in mid-November, and the dying sun threw dappled shadows over the sweeping lawn. They crossed East Drive, passed the statue of Hans Christian Andersen, and ascended a slight rise. And then—as if possessed by the same thought—they stopped. Ahead, across the placid surface of Conservatory Water, stood the Kerbs Memorial Boathouse, toy-like, framed against the vast ramparts of the buildings lining Fifth Avenue. It was a scene from a picture postcard: the small lake reflecting the blood-orange sky, the little model yachts cutting through the still water to the appreciative cries of children. In the gap between two skyscrapers, a full moon was just appearing.
Her throat felt tight and dry, and the necklace of freshwater pearls felt constricting around her throat. "Judson," she said, "I'm not sure I can do this."
She felt his brotherly grip on her arm tighten reassuringly. "It'll be okay."
She glanced around at the tableau spread before her, heart beating fast. A violinist was sawing away on the parapet before the lake. A young couple sat on one of the boathouse benches, oblivious to everything but each other's company. On the next bench, a short-haired man with a bodybuilder's physique read the Wall Street Journal. Commuters and joggers passed by in small streams. In the shadow of the boathouse itself, a homeless man was settling down for the night.
And there he stood before the lake—a slender figure, motionless, dressed in a long pale coat of exquisite cut, blond-white hair burnished platinum by the dying light.
The woman drew in a sharp breath.
"Go ahead," Judson said in a low voice. "I'll be close by." He released her arm.
As the woman stepped forward, her surroundings vanished, her entire attention focused on the man who watched her approach. Thousands of times she had imagined this moment, spun it out in her mind in all its many variants, always ending with the bitter thought that it could never happen; that it would remain only a dream. And yet here he was. He looked older, but not by much: his alabaster skin, his fine patrician features, his glittering eyes that held her own so intently, awakened a storm of feeling and memory and—even at this time of extreme danger—desire.
She stopped a few feet from him.
"Is it really you?" he asked, his courtly southern drawl freighted with emotion.
She tried to smile. "I'm sorry, Aloysius. So very sorry."
He did not reply. Now, all these years later, she found herself unable to read the thoughts that lay behind those silver eyes. What was he feeling: Betrayal? Resentment? Love?
A narrow scar, freshly made, ran down one of his cheeks. She raised a fingertip, touched it lightly. Then, impulsively, she pointed over his shoulder.
"Look," she whispered. "After all these years, we still have the moonrise."
His glance followed hers, over the Fifth Avenue skyline. The buttery full moon rose between the stately buildings, perfectly framed against a pearlescent pink sky that graded upward into deep, cool violet. His frame shuddered. When he looked back at her, a new expression was on his face.
"Helen," he whispered. "My God. I thought you were dead."
Wordlessly, she slipped a hand through his arm and—without giving it conscious thought—began to walk around the lake.
"Judson says you're going to take me away from… from all this," she said.
"Yes. We'll return to my apartment at the Dakota. And from there, we'll head to—" He paused. "The less said about that, the better. Suffice to say, where we're going, you'll have nothing to fear."
She tightened her grip on his arm. "Nothing to fear. You have no idea how good that sounds."
"It's time to recover your life." He reached into the pocket of his jacket, drew out a gold ring set with a large star sapphire. "So let's start at the beginning. Do you recognize this?"
She flushed as she looked at it. "I never thought I'd see it again."
"And I never thought I'd get the chance to replace it on your finger. That is, not until Judson told me you were still alive. I knew, I knew, he was telling the truth—even when nobody else believed me."
He reached over, caught her left forearm lightly, lifting it as if to place the ring on her finger. His eyes widened as he took in the stump of her wrist, a scar running along its upper edge.
"I see," he said simply. "Of course."
It was as if the careful, diplomatic dance they had been engaged in suddenly ended. "Helen," he said, his tone now with an edge. "Why did you go along with this horrific scheme? Why did you conceal so many things from me? Why haven't you—"
"Let's please not talk about that," she interrupted quickly. "There were reasons for everything. It's a terrible story, a terrible story. I will tell it to you—all of it. But this is not the time or place. Now, please—place the ring on my finger and let's leave."
She raised her right hand, and he slid on the ring. As he did so, she watched his gaze move past her, to the scene beyond.
Suddenly he stiffened. For just a moment he stood there, her hand still in his. Then, with apparent calm, he turned toward the spot where her brother was standing and gestured for him to join them.
"Judson," she heard him murmur. "Take Helen and get her away from here. Do it calmly but quickly."
The fear that had just started to recede spiked hard in her breast. "Aloysius, what—"
But he cut her off with a brief shake of his head. "Take her to the Dakota," he told Judson. "I'll meet up with you there. Please go. Now."
Judson took her hand and began walking away, almost as if he had anticipated this.
"What is it?" she asked him. No reply.
She looked over her shoulder. To her horror, she saw that Pendergast had a pistol out and was pointing it at one of the model yachtsmen. "Stand up," he was saying. "Keep your hands where I can see them."
"Judson—" she began again.
His only response was to quicken his stride, pulling her along.
Suddenly a shot rang out behind them. "Run!" Pendergast cried.
In an instant the tranquil scene fell into pandemonium. People scattered amid screams. Judson yanked her harder, and they broke into a run.
A stutter of automatic weapons fire cut through the air. Judson's hand jerked away from her own, and he fell.
At first she thought he had tripped. Then she saw the blood gushing from his jacket.
"Judson!" she cried out, halting and bending over him.
He lay on his side, looking up at her, twisting in pain, his mouth trying to work. "Keep running," he gasped. "Keep—"
Another clatter of the automatic weapon, another line of whistling death drawn through the grass as bullets thudded into the earth, and Judson was hit again, the impact flipping him over onto his back.
"No!" Helen screamed, leaping away.
The chaos swelled: screams, the crack of gunfire, the tread of fleeing people. Helen was aware of none of it. She fell to her knees, staring in horror at his open but unseeing eyes.
"Judson!" she cried. "Judson!"
A few seconds may have passed, or more—she had no way of knowing—and then she heard Pendergast calling her name. She looked up. He was running toward her, his pistol drawn, firing to one side.
"Fifth Avenue!" he cried. "Run to Fifth Avenue—!"
Another gunshot rang out, and he, too, was knocked to the ground. This second shock roused her. She leapt to her feet, her trench coat wet with her brother's blood. Aloysius was still alive and had managed to get back on his feet, taking cover behind a bench, continuing to fire at the couple who, just moments before, had apparently been interested only in making out.
He's covering my escape.
Wheeling around, she took off at top speed. She'd get to Fifth Avenue, lose the gunmen in the teeming crowds, then make her way to the Dakota, meet up with him there… Her panicked thoughts were interrupted by another fusillade of shots, more screaming of panicked people.
Helen ran on, hard. The avenue lay ahead, beyond the stone gates of the park. Just fifty feet to go…
"Helen!" She heard Pendergast's distant cry. "Look out! To your left!"
She glanced left. Under the darkness of the trees, she could see two men in jogging outfits, sprinting directly for her.
She swerved away, toward a grove of sycamores off the main path. She glanced over her shoulder again. The joggers were following—and they were gaining fast.
More shots rang out. She redoubled her efforts, but the heels of her shoes kept sinking into the soft earth, slowing her down. Then she felt a terrific impact against her back and was thrown to the ground. Someone grasped the neck of her trench coat and hauled her roughly to her feet. She struggled, crying out, but the two men pinned her arms and began dragging her toward the avenue. With horror, she recognized their faces.
"Aloysius!" she cried at the top of her lungs, looking back over her shoulder. "Help! I know these people! Der Bund—the Covenant! They'll kill me! Help me, please—! "
In the dying light, she could just make out Pendergast. He had struggled to his feet, bleeding freely from the gunshot wound, and he was limping toward her on his one good leg.
Ahead, on Fifth Avenue, a taxi idled at the curb, waiting—waiting for her and her abductors.
"Aloysius!" she screamed again in despair.
The men pushed her forward, opened the cab's rear door, and flung her inside. Bullets ricocheted off the tempered front window of the cab.
"Los! Verschwinden wir hier!" one of the joggers shouted as they tumbled in after her. "Gib Gas!"
Helen struggled fiercely as the taxi pulled away from the curb, trying with her one good hand to claw her way to the door. She got the briefest glimpse of Pendergast, in the gloom of the park. He had fallen to his knees, still looking in her direction.
"No!" she cried as she struggled. "No!"
"Halt die Schnauze!" barked one of the men. He drew back his fist and punched her in the side of the head—and darkness came rushing over all.
A DOCTOR IN WRINKLED SCRUBS STUCK HIS head into the waiting room of the Lenox Hill ICU. "He's awake, if you'd like to talk to him."
"Thank God." Lieutenant Vincent D'Agosta of the NYPD stuffed the notebook he'd been examining into his pocket and stood up. "How is he?"
"No complications." A note of irritation crossed the physician's face. "Although doctors always make the worst patients."
"But he's not—" D'Agosta began, then fell silent. He followed the doctor into the intensive care unit.
Special Agent Pendergast was sitting up in bed, attached to half a dozen monitoring machines. An IV was in one arm, and a nasal cannula was fitted to his nostrils. His bed was strewn with medical charts, and he held an X-ray in his hand. Always very pale, the skin of the FBI agent was now like porcelain. A doctor was bending over the bed, in intense conversation with his patient. Although D'Agosta could barely hear Pendergast's replies, it was clear the two men were not exactly in agreement.
"—Completely out of the question," the doctor was saying as D'Agosta approached the bed. "You're still in shock from the gunshot wound and loss of blood, and the wound itself—not to mention the two bruised ribs—will require healing and ongoing medical attention."
"Doctor," Pendergast replied. Normally, Pendergast was the quintessence of southern gentility, but now his voice sounded like ice chips rattling on iron. "The bullet barely grazed the gastrocnemius muscle. Neither the tibia nor the fibula was touched. The wound was clean, and no operation was required."
"But the blood loss—"
"Yes," Pendergast interrupted. "The blood loss. How many units was I given?"
A pause. "One."
"One unit. Due to damage to the minor tributaries of the Giacomini vein. Trivial." He waved the X-ray like a flag. "As for the ribs, you said it yourself: bruised, not broken. The costae verae five and six, at the heads, approximately two millimeters from the vertebral column. Being true ribs, their elasticity will aid in quick recovery."
The doctor fumed. "Dr. Pendergast, I simply cannot permit you to leave this hospital in your condition. You of all people—"
"On the contrary, Doctor: you cannot prevent it. My vitals are within acceptable norms. My injuries are minor, and I can tend to them myself."
"I will note on your chart that you are leaving the hospital against my express orders."
"Excellent." Pendergast flipped the X-ray like a playing card onto the nearby table. "And now if you'll excuse me?"
The physician took one final, exasperated look at Pendergast, then turned on his heel and left the room, followed by the doctor who had admitted D'Agosta.
Now Pendergast turned to D'Agosta as if seeing him for the first time. "Vincent."
D'Agosta quickly approached the bedside. "Pendergast. My God. I'm so sorry—"
"Why aren't you with Constance?"
"She's safe. Mount Mercy redoubled their security measures. I had to…" He paused a moment to control his voice. "To check up on you."
"Much ado about nothing, thank you." Pendergast removed the nasal cannula, slid out the IV needle from the inside of his elbow, then detached the blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter. He pulled back the sheets and sat up. The movements were slow, almost robotic; D'Agosta could see the man was driving himself by a sheer iron will.
"I hope to hell you aren't really planning to leave."
Pendergast turned to look at him again, and the fire in his eyes—fierce coals in an otherwise dead face—shut D'Agosta up immediately.
"And how is Proctor?" Pendergast asked, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.
"He's fine, they say. Considering. A few broken ribs where the impact of the shot hit his bulletproof vest."
D'Agosta shook his head.
"Bring me my clothes," Pendergast said, nodding toward the closet.
D'Agosta hesitated, realized it was useless to protest, and brought them over.
With a wince, Pendergast stood up; swayed almost imperceptibly for a second; then steadied himself. D'Agosta handed him his clothes, and he drew the curtain.
"Do you have any idea what the hell happened back there in the park?" D'Agosta said to the curtain. "It's all over the news, five people dead, homicide's going crazy."
"I have no time for explanations."
"Sorry, but you're not getting out of here without telling me what happened." He took out his notebook.
"Very well. I will speak to you for the length of time it takes me to get dressed. And then I am getting out of here."
D'Agosta shrugged. He'd take what he could get.
"It was a carefully planned—exceptionally carefully planned—abduction. They killed Judson and kidnapped my wife."
"A shadowy group of Nazis, or Nazi descendants, called Der Bund."
"Nazis? Jesus, why?"
"Their motives are obscure to me."
"I need details of exactly what happened."
Pendergast's voice came from behind the curtain. "I went to meet Judson and Helen at the boathouse, to take Helen and hide her from this group. Helen arrived at six, as agreed. I quickly became aware that we'd been set up. One of the model yachtsmen was acting suspicious. He didn't know the first thing about boats, and he was nervous—sweating in the chill air. I drew on him and told him to stand up. That precipitated it."
D'Agosta took notes. "How many were involved?"
A pause. "At least seven. The yachtsman. Two lovers on a park bench—they killed Judson. A would-be homeless man, who shot Proctor. Your CS people have probably already reconstructed the sequence of the firefight. There were at least three others: two joggers, who kidnapped Helen as she was trying to escape, and the driver of the ersatz cab they forced her into."
Pendergast emerged from behind the screen. His usually immaculate suit was a mess: the jacket was covered with grass stains, and the lower part of one trouser leg was torn and crusted with dried blood. He stared at D'Agosta as he straightened his tie. "Good-bye, Vincent."
"Wait. How the hell did this… this Bund learn about your meeting?"
"A most excellent question."
Pendergast grabbed a metal cane and turned to leave. D'Agosta caught him by the arm. "This is nuts, you walking out of here like this. Isn't there something I can do to help you?"
"Yes." Pendergast plucked the notebook and pen from D'Agosta's hand, opened the notebook, and quickly scrawled something. "This is the license plate of the cab Helen was abducted in. I managed to get all but the final two numbers. Put all your resources into finding it. Here's the hack number, too, but my guess is it's meaningless."
D'Agosta took back the notebook. "You got it."
"Put out an APB on Helen. It might be complicated, as she's officially dead, but do it anyway. I'll get you a photograph—it will be fifteen years old, use forensic software to age it."
Pendergast gave a single, brusque shake of his head. "Just find that car." And he stepped out of the room without another word, limping down the hall, accelerating as he went.
AS D'AGOSTA DROVE WEST AWAY FROM NEWARK, he felt as if he were stepping back in time to when he'd been a beat cop at the Forty-First Precinct of the old South Bronx. The dilapidated shops, the shuttered buildings, the ravaged streets—all were a reminder of less happy days. He drove on as the view outside the windshield grew steadily grimmer. Soon he reached the heart of the blight: here—in the midst of the densest megalopolis in America—entire blocks lay empty, their buildings burnt shells or piles of rubble. He pulled over at a corner and got out, service piece where he could get to it quickly. But then he saw, amid all the decay, a single building—standing like a lonely flower in a parking lot—with lace-curtained windows, geraniums, and brightly painted shutters: a spot of hope in the urban wasteland. D'Agosta fetched a deep breath. The South Bronx had come back; this neighborhood would, too.
He crossed the sidewalk and started across a vacant lot, kicking aside bricks. Pendergast had beaten him here: he could see the agent at the far end of the lot, beside the burned-out remains of a taxi, speaking to a uniformed police officer and what looked like a small CSI team. Pendergast's Rolls-Royce was parked at the corner, spectacularly out of place on these impoverished streets.
Pendergast gave D'Agosta a curt nod as he approached. Other than the shocking paleness, the FBI agent now looked more like his old self. In the late-afternoon light, his trademark black suit was clean and pressed, his white shirt crisp. He had traded the ungainly aluminum cane for one of ebony, topped by a handle of carved silver.
"… Found it forty-five minutes ago," the beat cop was telling Pendergast. "I was chasing some twelve-year-olds who'd been boosting copper wire." He shook his head. "And here was this New York taxi. The license matched the one on the APB, so I called it in."
D'Agosta turned his attention to the taxi. It was little more than a husk: the hood was gone, the engine cannibalized, the seats missing, dashboard scorched and partially melted, steering wheel broken in two.
The head of the CSI team approached from the far side of the vehicle. "Even before the vandals got to it, this was almost useless as evidence," he said, pulling off a pair of latex gloves. "No paperwork or documentation. It was vacuumed and wiped down, all fingerprints removed. They employed a particularly aggressive accelerant. Anything the perps didn't take care of, the fire would have."
"The VIN?" D'Agosta asked.
"We've got it. Stolen vehicle. Won't be of much use." The man paused. "We'll haul it back to the warehouse for a more thorough examination, but this smells like a professional cleanup job. Organized crime."
Pendergast took this in without replying. Although the agent remained utterly still, D'Agosta could feel a sense of desperation, of ruthless drive, radiating from him. Then, abruptly, he drew a pair of latex gloves from a coat pocket, snapped them on, and approached the vehicle. Crouching over it, wincing briefly with pain, he circled once, then twice, spidery fingers running lightly over the scorched metal, glittering eyes taking in everything. As the others watched, he peered carefully into the engine space; the passenger compartment, front and back; the trunk. Then, as he began a third revolution, he pulled some small ziplock bags, a few sample tubes, and a scalpel from his pocket. Kneeling beside the front fender, his face creasing momentarily with the effort, he used the scalpel to scrape some shavings of dried mud into one of the bags, which he then sealed and returned to his pocket. Rising, he completed the third circuit, more slowly this time. Stopping at the right rear tire, he knelt again and—using a pair of forceps—plucked several small pebbles from the treads of the tire and placed them in a second bag. This, too, quickly disappeared into his pocket.
"That's, uh, evidence," the cop began.
Pendergast rose and turned toward the cop. He said nothing, but the cop took a step backward under the force of the FBI agent's stare.
"Right. Keep us in the loop on that," the cop muttered.
Still Pendergast skewered the man with his stare. He looked at the CSI team, each in turn, and then finally at D'Agosta. There was something accusatory in his gaze, as if they were guilty of some unnamed offense. Then he turned and began walking in the direction of the Rolls, limping slightly, using the cane for support.
D'Agosta scrambled after him. "What's next?"
Pendergast did not stop walking. "I'm going to find Helen."
"Will you be… working officially?" D'Agosta asked.
"Do not concern yourself with my status."
D'Agosta was taken aback by his cold tone.
"Carry on with the official homicide and kidnapping investigation. If you uncover anything of interest, let me know. But remember also: this is my fight. Not yours."
When D'Agosta stopped, Pendergast turned, his voice softening as he laid a hand on his arm. "Your place is here, Vincent. What I have to do, I must do alone."
D'Agosta nodded. Pendergast turned away again and opened the car door, simultaneously raising his cell phone to one ear. As the door closed, D'Agosta could hear him speaking into the phone: "Mime? Anything? Anything at all?"
HORACE ALLERTON WAS PREPARING TO ENJOY his favorite activity—a relaxing evening with a cup of coffee and a good scientific journal—when a knock sounded at the front door of his neat Lawrenceville bungalow.
He put down his cup and glanced at the clock with a frown. Quarter past eight: too late for a friend to be calling. He picked up the magazine, Stratigraphy Today, and opened it with a quiet sigh of contentment.
The knock came again, more insistent.
Allerton's eyes rose from the magazine to the door. Jehovah's Witnesses, maybe, or one of those annoying kids who went door-to-door, selling magazine subscriptions. Ignore them and they'd go away.
He had just started in on the magazine's lead article—"Mechanical Stratigraphy Analysis of Depositional Structure," a promising evening's reading indeed—when he glanced up and had the shock of his life. A man in an elegant black suit, face as white as Dracula, stood in the center of his living room.
"What on earth—?" Allerton cried, leaping up.
"Special Agent Pendergast. FBI." A shield and identification card appeared out of nowhere, shoved into his face.
"How, how did you get in? What do you want?"
"Dr. Horace Allerton, the geologist?" the agent asked. His voice was cool but with an underlying shimmer of threat.
Allerton nodded, swallowed.
Without a word, Pendergast stepped over to a chair, and now Allerton noticed the limp and the silver-headed cane. The geologist sat back guardedly in his own wing chair. "What's this all about?"
"Dr. Allerton," the FBI agent began as he took a seat, "I've come to you for help. You are known for your expertise in analyzing soil composition. And I've taken particular note of your knowledge of glacial deposition."
The agent reached into his pocket, took out two sealed plastic bags. He laid them both on the coffee table, separating them.
Allerton hesitated, then bent forward to examine them. One was filled with a sample of micaceous clay mingled with soil, the other with small broken pebbles of porphyritic granite.
"I need two things. First, I would like a distribution map of the type of clay found in sample one."
Allerton nodded slowly.
"The pebbles in sample two are the product of a gravel crusher, are they not?"
The geologist opened the bag and slid the pebbles into his hand. They were rough, sharp, the edges unworn by time, weathering, or glacial abrasion. "They are."
"I want to know where they came from."
Allerton glanced from one bag to the other. "Why come to me at this time of night, sneaking in like this? You should make an appointment, see me at my Princeton office."
A faint tremor passed over the FBI agent's sculpted face. "If this were merely an idle request, Doctor, I would not have troubled you at such a late hour. A woman's life is at stake."
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- Dec 11, 2012
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