"My name is David Tennant, M.D. I'm professor of ethics at the
University of Virginia Medical School, and if you're watching this
tape, I'm dead."
I took a breath and gathered myself. I didn't want to rant. I'd
mounted my Sony camcorder on a tripod and rotated the LCD screen in
order to see myself as I spoke. I'd lost weight over the past
weeks. My eyes were red with fatigue, the orbits shiny and dark. I
looked more like a hunted criminal than a grieving friend.
"I don't really know where to begin. I keep seeing Andrew lying on
the floor. And I know they killed him. But...I'm getting ahead of
myself. You need facts. I was born in 1961 in Los Alamos, New
Mexico. My father was James Howard Tennant, the nuclear physicist.
My mother was Ann Tennant, a pediatrician. I'm making this tape in
a sober state of mind, and I'm going to deposit it with my attorney
as soon as I finish, on the understanding that it should be opened
if I die for any reason.
"Six hours ago, my colleague Dr. Andrew Fielding was found dead
beside his desk, the victim of an apparent stroke. I can't prove
it, but I know Fielding was murdered. For the past two years, he
and I have been part of a scientific team funded by the National
Security Agency and DARPA -- the government agency that created the
Internet in the 1970s. Under the highest security classification,
that team and its work are known as Project Trinity."
I glanced down at the short-barreled Smith & Wesson .38 in my
lap. I'd made sure the pistol wasn't visible on camera, but it
calmed me to have it within reach. Reassured, I again stared at the
glowing red light.
"Two years ago, Peter Godin, founder of the Godin Supercomputing
Corporation, had an epiphany much like that mythical moment when an
apple dropped onto Isaac Newton's head. It happened in a dream.
Seemingly from nowhere, a seventy-year-old man visualized the most
revolutionary possibility in the history of science. When he woke
up, Godin telephoned John Skow, a deputy director of the NSA, in
Fort Meade, Maryland. By six A.M., the two men had drafted and
delivered a letter to the president of the United States. That
letter shook the White House to its foundations. I know this
because the president was my brother's close friend in college. My
brother died three years ago, but because of him, the president
knew of my work, which is what put me in the middle of all that
I rubbed the cool metal of the .38, wondering what to tell and what
to leave out. Leave out nothing, said a voice in my head. My
father's voice. Fifty years ago, he'd played his own part in
America's secret history, and that burden had greatly shortened his
days. My father died in 1988, a haunted man, certain that the Cold
War he'd spent his youthful energy to perpetuate would end with the
destruction of civilization, as it so easily could have. Leave
"The Godin Memo," I continued, "had the same effect as the letter
Albert Einstein sent President Roosevelt at the beginning of World
War Two, outlining the potential for an atomic bomb and the
possibility that Nazi Germany might develop one. Einstein's letter
spurred the Manhattan Project, the secret quest to ensure that
America would be the first to possess nuclear weapons. Peter
Godin's letter resulted in a project of similar scope but
infinitely greater ambition. Project Trinity began behind the walls
of an NSA front corporation in the Research Triangle Park of North
Carolina. Only six people on the planet ever had full knowledge of
Trinity. Now that Andrew Fielding is dead, only five remain. I'm
one. The other four are Peter Godin, John Skow, Ravi Nara --
I bolted to my feet with the .38 in my hand. Someone was rapping on
my front door. Through thin curtains, I saw a Federal Express truck
parked at the foot of my sidewalk. What I couldn't see was the
space immediately in front of my door.
"Who is it?" I called.
"FedEx," barked a muffled male voice. "I need a signature."
I wasn't expecting a delivery. "Is it a letter or a package?"
I shivered. A package from a dead man? Only one person would send
me a package under the name of the author of Alice in Wonderland.
Andrew Fielding. Had he sent me something the day before he died?
Fielding had been obsessively searching the Trinity labs for weeks
now, the computers as well as the physical space. Perhaps he'd
found something. And perhaps whatever it was had got him killed.
I'd sensed something strange about Fielding's behavior yesterday --
not so easy with a man famed for his eccentricities -- but by this
morning he'd seemed to be his old self.
"Do you want this thing or not?" asked the deliveryman.
I cocked the pistol and edged over to the door. I'd fastened the
chain latch when I'd got home. With my left hand, I unlocked the
door and pulled it open to the length of the chain. Through the
crack, I saw the face of a uniformed man in his twenties, his hair
bound into a short ponytail.
"Pass your pad through with the package. I'll sign and give it back
"It's a digital pad. I can't give you that."
"Keep your hand on it, then."
"Paranoid," he muttered, but he stuck a thick orange pad through
the crack in the door.
I grabbed the stylus hanging from the string and scrawled my name
on the touch-sensitive screen. "Okay."
The pad disappeared, and a FedEx envelope was thrust through. I
took it and tossed it onto the sofa, then shut the door and waited
until I heard the truck rumble away from the curb.
I picked up the envelope and glanced at the label. "Lewis Carroll"
had been signed in Fielding's spidery hand. As I pulled the sheet
of paper from the envelope, a greasy white granular substance
spilled over my fingers. The instant my eyes registered the color,
some part of my brain whispered anthrax. The odds of that
were low, but my best friend had just died under suspicious
circumstances. A certain amount of paranoia was justified.
I hurried to the kitchen and scrubbed my hands with dish soap and
water. Then I pulled a black medical bag from my closet. Inside was
the usual pharmacopoeia of the M.D.'s home: analgesics,
anti-biotics, emetics, steroid cream. I found what I wanted in a
snap compartment: a blister pack of Cipro, a powerful
broad-spectrum antibiotic. I swallowed one pill with water from the
tap, then took a pair of surgical gloves from the bag. As a last
precaution, I tied a dirty T-shirt from the hamper around my nose
and mouth. Then I folded the FedEx envelope and letter into
separate Ziploc bags, sealed them, and laid them on the
As badly as I wanted to read the letter, part of me resisted.
Fielding might have been murdered for what was written on that
page. Even if that weren't the case, nothing good would come from
my reading it.
I carefully vacuumed the white granules from the carpet in the
front room, wondering if I could be wrong about Fielding's death
being murder. He and I had worked ourselves into quite a state of
suspicion over the past weeks, but then we had reason to. And the
timing was too damn convenient. Instead of putting the vacuum
cleaner back into the closet, I walked to the back door and tossed
the machine far into the yard. I could always buy another
I was still eerily aware of the letter sitting on the kitchen
counter. I felt like a soldier's wife refusing to open a telegram.
But I already knew my friend was dead. So what did I fear?
The why, answered a voice in my head. Fielding talking.
You want to keep your head in the sand. It's the American
More than a little irritated to find that the dead could be as
bothersome as the living, I picked up the Ziploc containing the
letter and carried it to the front room. The note was brief and
Excerpted from THE FOOTPRINTS OF GOD © Copyright 2003 by
Greg Iles. Reprinted with permission by Pocket Star, an impring of
Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.