Los Angeles, California
April, One year later
As she walked into the Getty Center’s conservation laboratory, with its sinks and fume hoods, Eva Blake smiled. On the sea of worktables lay centuries-old illuminated manuscripts, charts, and scrolls. Tattered and sprinkled with wormholes, all would be brought back to useful life. For her, conservation work was more than a profession --- by restoring the old books she was restoring herself.
Eva’s gaze swept the room. Three other conservators were already bent over their tables, lone islands of movement in the vast high-tech lab. She said a cheery hello and grabbed a smock. A slender woman of thirty years, she had an understated face --- the cheekbones were good, the chin soft and round, the lips full --- that resisted the sharp cut of classical beauty. Her red hair tumbled to her shoulders, and her eyes were cobalt blue. Today she wore an open-necked white blouse, white pencil skirt, and low-heeled white sandals. There was a sense of elegance about her, and a softness, a vulnerability, she had learned to hide.
She stopped at Peggy Doty’s workbench. “Hi, Peggy. How’s your new project?”
Peggy lifted her head, took a jeweler’s loupe from her eye, and quickly put on large, thick glasses. “Hey, there. Seneca’s worrying me. I think I can definitely save Aristotle, but then he’s the one who said, ‘Happiness is a sort of action,’ so with that kind of Zen attitude he’s bound to last longer.”
Born and raised in England, Peggy was a gifted conservator and a longtime friend, such a good friend that she had stayed close even after Eva had been charged with vehicular manslaughter in her husband’s death. As she thought about him, Eva’s throat tightened. She automatically touched the gold chain around her neck.
Then she said, “I always liked Aristotle.”
“Me, too. I’ll see what I can do for Seneca. Poor guy. His toga’s peeling like a banana.” Peggy’s brown hair was short and messy, her eyeglasses were already sliding down her nose, and EX LIBRIS inside a pink heart was tattooed on her forearm.
“He’s in good hands.” Eva started to leave.
“Don’t go yet. I’d sure like your help --- the provenance on this piece sucks.” Peggy indicated the colorful medieval chart spread out on her worktable. “I’m waiting for the results of the date test, but I’d love to know at least the century.”
“Sure. Let’s see what we can figure out.” Eva pulled up a chair.
The chart was about fourteen inches wide and twenty inches long. At the bottom stood two figures in rope sandals and luminous blue togas. On the left was Aristotle, representing natural philosophy, and on the right was Seneca, moral philosophy. To all appearances they were an unlikely pair --- Aristotle was Greek, while Seneca was Roman and born nearly four hundred years later. Eva studied them a moment, then moved her gaze to medallions rising like clouds above their heads. Each medallion contained a pair of the men’s opposing theories, a battle of ideas between two great classical thinkers. The chart’s lettering was Cyrillic.
“The chart itself is written in Old Russian,” Eva explained, “but it’s not the revised alphabet of Peter the Great. So it was probably made before 1700.” She laid her finger along the right margin of the parchment, where small, faded words were printed. “This isn’t Russian, old or new --- it’s Greek. It translates as ‘Created under the hand of Maximos after cataloguing the Royal Library.’ ”
Peggy moved closer, staring down. “I’m pretty sure Maximos is a Greek name. But which Royal Library? Russia or Greece? What city?”
“Our chart-maker, Maximos, was born Michael Trivolis in Greece and was later known as Maximos. When he moved to Russia, he was called Maxim. Does that give you enough information to know who he was?”
Peggy’s small face lit up. “Saint Maxim the Greek. He spent a long time in Moscow translating books, writing, and teaching. I remember studying him in an Eastern history course.”
“And that gives you the answer to your question --- Maxim arrived in Russia in 1518 and never left. He died about forty years later. So your chart was made sometime in the first half of the sixteenth century in Russia.”
Eva smiled. “How’s everything with Zack?” Zack Turner was the head of security at the British Museum in London.
“Distant, as in he’s still there, and I’m still here. Woe is me --- and he.”
“How about going back to the British Library?”
“I’ve been thinking about it. How are you doing?” There was concern in Peggy’s gaze.
“Fine.” It was mostly true now that the Getty had offered Eva the conservation job to tide her over until her trial. She was out of sight in the lab --- the press coverage of the car crash had been exhaustive. But then Charles had been the renowned director of the elite Elaine Moreau Library, while she had been a top curator here at the celebrated Getty. Charming, handsome, and in love, they were a star-studded couple in L.A.’s art and monied beau monde. His dramatic death --- and her arrest and denials --- had made for a particularly juicy scandal.
Being home all day every day after the accident had been hard. She watched for Charles in the shadows, listened for his voice calling from the garden, slept with his pillow tight against her cheek. The emptiness had closed around her like a cold fist, holding her tight in a kind of painful suspension.
“I’m so sorry, Eva,” Peggy was saying. “Charles was a great scholar.”
She nodded. Again her fingers went to the chain around her neck. At the end of it hung an ancient Roman coin with the profile of the goddess Diana— her first gift from Charles. She had not taken off the necklace since he died.
“Dinner tonight?” Peggy said brightly. “My treat for letting me tap into that big brain of yours.”
“Love to. I’ve got karate class, so I’ll meet you afterward.”
They decided on a restaurant, and Eva went to her workstation. She sat and pulled the arm of her stereo-binocular microscope toward her. She liked the familiarity of the motion and the comfort of her desk with its slide kits, gooseneck lamp, and ultraviolet light stand. Her project was an adventure manuscript about the knights of King Arthur completed in 1422 in London.
She stared through the microscope’s eyepiece and used a scalpel to lift a flaking piece of green pigment from the gown of a princess. The quiet of the work and the meticulous focus it required soothed her. She carefully applied adhesive beneath the paint flake.
So deep was her concentration, the voice sent a dull shock through her. She looked up. It was her attorney, Brian Collum.
Of medium height, he was in his late forties, with eyebrows and hair the gray color of a magnet and the strong- jawed face of a man who knew what he wanted from life. Impeccably turned out in a charcoal suit with thin pinstripes, he was the name partner in the international law firm of Collum & Associates. Because of their friendship, he was representing her in the trial for Charles’s death.
“How nice to see you, Brian.”
He lowered his voice. “We need to talk.” Usually his long face radiated optimism. But not now. His expression was grim.
“Not good news?” She glanced at her colleagues, noting they were studiously attending to their projects.
“It’s good --- or bad, depending on what you think.”
Eva led him outdoors to a courtyard of lawns and flowers. A water fountain flowed serenely over perfectly arranged boulders. This was all part of the Getty Center, a complex of striking architecture sheathed in glass and Italian travertine stone crowning a hill in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Silently they passed museum visitors and sat together on a bench where no one could overhear.
“What’s happened?” she asked.
He was blunt. “I have an offer from the D.A.’s office. If you plead guilty, they’ll give you a reduced sentence. Four years. But with good behavior you’ll be out in three. They’re willing to make a deal because you have a clean driving record and you’re a respected member of the community.”
“Absolutely not.” She forced herself to stay calm. “I wasn’t driving.”
“Then who was?”
The question hung like a scythe in the sparkling California air.
“You really don’t recall Charles getting behind the wheel?” she asked. “You were standing in your doorway when we drove away. I saw you. You had to have seen us.” They had been at a dinner party at Brian’s house that night, the last guests to leave.
“We’ve been over this before. I went inside as soon as I said good night --- before either of you got close to your car. Alcohol plays tricks with the mind.”
“Which is why I’d never drive. Never.” Working to keep the horror from her voice, she related the story again: “It was after one a.m., and Charles was driving us home. We were laughing. There wasn’t any traffic on Mulholland, so Charles wove the car back and forth. That threw us against our seat belts and just made us laugh harder. He drove with one hand, then with the other…” She frowned to herself. There was something else, but it escaped her. “Suddenly a car shot out from a driveway ahead of us. Charles slammed the brakes. Our car spun out of control. I must’ve lost consciousness. The next thing I knew, I was strapped down to a gurney.” She swallowed. “And Charles was dead.”
She smoothed the fabric of her skirt and stared off as grief raged through her.
Brian’s silence was so long that the distant roar of traffic on the San Diego Freeway seemed to grow louder.
At last he said kindly, “I’m sure that’s what you remember, but we have no evidence to support it. And I’ve spent enough of your money hiring investigators to look for witnesses that I have to believe we’re not going to find any.” His voice toughened. “How’s a jury going to react when they learn you were found lying unconscious just ten feet from the driver’s door --- and it was hanging open, showing you were behind the wheel? And Charles was in the front passenger seat, with the seat belt melted into what was left of him. There’s no way he was driving. And you had a 1.6 blood alcohol level --- twice the legal limit.”
“But I wasn’t driving ---” She stopped. With effort, she controlled herself. “You think I should take the D.A.’s deal, don’t you?”
“I think the jury is going to believe you were so drunk you blacked out and don’t remember what you did. They’ll go for the maximum sentence. If I had a scintilla of hope I could convince them otherwise, I’d recommend against the offer.”
Shaken, Eva stood and walked around the tranquil pool of water encircling the fountain. Her chest was tight. She stared into the water and tried to make herself breathe. First she had lost Charles and all their dreams and hopes for the future. He had been brilliant, fun, endlessly fascinating. She closed her eyes and could almost feel him stroking her cheek, comforting her. Her heart ached with longing for him.
And now she faced prison. The thought terrified her, but for the first time she admitted it was possible --- she had never in her life blacked out, but she might have this time. If she had blacked out, she might have climbed behind the wheel. And if she did --- that meant she really had killed Charles. She bent her head and clasped the gold wedding band on her finger. Tears slid down her cheeks.
Behind her, Brian touched her shoulder. “You remember Trajan, the great ruler who expanded the Roman empire?”
She quickly wiped her face with her fingers and turned around to him. “Of course. What about him?”
“Trajan was ruthless and cunning and won every great battle he led his troops into. He had a rule: If you can’t win, don’t fight. If you don’t fight, it’s no defeat. You will survive. Take the deal, Eva. Survive.”
The world seemed excitingly new to Eva—no handcuffs, no prison guards, no eyes watching her around the clock. It was 8:30 p.m. and raining heavily as she hurried across the forecourt toward the British Museum. She hardly felt the cold wet on her face. London’s traffic thundered behind her, and her old Burberry trench coat was wrapped around her. She looked up at the looming columns, the sheer stone walls, the Greek Revival carvings and statues. Memories filled her of the good times she and Charles had spent in the majestic old museum.
Dodging a puddle, she ran lightly up the stone steps, closed her umbrella, and entered the Front Hall. It was ablaze with light, the high ceiling fading up into dramatic darkness. She paused at the entrance to the Queen Elizabeth Great Court, two sweeping acres of marble flooring rimmed by white Portland stone walls and columned entryways. She drank in its serene beauty.
At its center stood the circular Reading Room, one of the world’s finest libraries --- and coming out its door were Herr Professor and Frau Georg Mendochon.
Smiling, Eva went to greet them. With glances at each other, they hesitated.
“Timma. Georg.” She extended her hand. “It’s been years.”
“How are you, Eva?” Georg’s accent was light. He was a globe- trotting academic from Austria.
“It’s wonderful to see you again,” she said sincerely.
“Ja. And we know why it has been so long.” Timma had never been subtle. “What are you doing here?” What she did not say was, You killed your husband, how dare you show up.
Eva glanced down, staring at the gold wedding band on her finger. She had known this was going to be difficult. She had come to accept that she had killed Charles, but the guilt of it still ravaged her.
Looking up, she ignored Timma’s tone. “I was hoping to see old friends. And to view The Book of Spies, of course.”
“It is very exciting, this discovery,” Georg agreed.
“It makes me wonder whether someone has finally found the Library of Gold,” Eva continued. “If anyone has, surely it’s you, Georg” --- now that Charles is gone, she thought to herself, missing him even more.
Georg laughed. Timma relented and smiled at the compliment.
“Ach, I wish,” he said.
“There’s no word anyone’s close to its discovery?” Eva pressed.
“I have heard nothing like that, alas,” Georg said. “Come, Timma. We must go to the Chinese exhibit now. We will see you upstairs, Eva, yes?”
As they crossed the Great Hall, Eva headed toward the North Wing and climbed the stairs to the top floor. The sounds of a multilingual crowd drifted from a large open doorway where a sign announced:
TRACING THE DEVELOPMENT OF WRITING
SPECIAL EXHIBITION FROM THE LESSING J. ROSENWALD COLLECTION
She found her invitation.
The guard took it. “Enjoy yourself, mum.”
She stepped inside. Excited energy infused the vast hall. People stood in groups and gathered around the glass display cases, many wearing tiny earphones as they listened to the show’s prerecorded tour. Museum guards in dress clothes circulated discreetly. The air smelled the way she remembered, of expensive perfumes and aromatic wines. She inhaled deeply.
“Eva, is that you?”
She turned. It was Guy Fontaine from the Sorbonne. Small and plump, he was standing with a huddle of Charles’s friends. She scanned their faces, saw their conflicted emotions at her arrival.
She said a warm hello and shook hands.
“You’re looking well, Eva,” Dan Ritenburg decided. He was a wealthy amateur Library of Gold hunter from Sydney. “How is it you’re able to be here?”
“Do not be crass, Dan,” Antonia del Toro scolded. From Madrid, she was an acclaimed historian. She turned to Eva. “I am so sorry about Charles. Such a dedicated researcher, although admittedly he could be difficult at times. My condolences.”
Several others murmured their sympathies. Then there was an expectant pause.
Eva spoke into it, answering their unasked question. “I’ve been released from prison.” That was what Tucker had told her to say. “When I saw there was a manuscript from the Library of Gold here, of course I had to come.”
“Of course,” Guy agreed. “The Book of Spies. It is beautiful. Incroyable.”
“Do you think its appearance means someone has found the library?” Eva asked.
The group erupted in talk, voicing their theories that the library was still beneath the Kremlin, that Ivan the Terrible had hidden it in a monastery outside Moscow, that it was simply a glorious myth perpetuated by Ivan himself.
“But if it’s a myth, why is The Book of Spies here?” Eva wanted to know.
“Aha, my point exactly,” said Desmond Warzel, a Swiss academic. “I have always maintained that before he died Ivan sold it off in bits and pieces because his treasury was low. Remember, he lost his last war with Poland --- and it was expensive.”
“But if that’s true,” Eva said reasonably, “surely other illuminated manuscripts from the library would’ve appeared by now.”
“She is right, Desmond,” Antonia said. “Just what I have been telling you all these years.”
They continued to argue, and eventually Eva excused herself. Listening to conversations, looking for more people she knew, she wove through the throngs and then stopped at the bar. She ordered a Perrier.
“Don’t I know you, ma’am?” the bar steward asked.
He was tall and thin, but with the chubby face of a chipmunk. The contrast was startling and endearing. Of course she recalled him.
“I used to come here a few years ago,” she told him.
He grinned and handed her the Perrier. “Welcome home.”
Smiling, she stepped away to check the map showing where in the room each woodcut book, illuminated manuscript, and printed book was displayed. When she found the location of The Book of Spies, she walked toward it, passing the spectacular Giant Bible of Mainz, finished in 1453, and the much smaller and grotesquely illustrated Book of Urizen, from 1818. It was William Blake’s parody of Genesis. A few years ago, on a happy winter day, Charles and she had personally examined each in the Library of Congress.
The crowd surrounding The Book of Spies was so thick, some on the fringes were giving up. Eva frowned, but not at the imposing human wall. What held her was a man leaving the display. There was something familiar about him. She could not see his face, because he was turned away and his hand clasped one ear as he listened to the tour.
What was it about him? She set her drink on a waiter’s tray and followed, sidestepping other visitors. He wore a black trench coat, had glossy black hair, and the back of his neck was tanned. She wanted to get ahead so she could see his face, but the crowd made it hard to move quickly.
Then he stepped into an open space, and for the first time she had a clear view of his entire body, of his physicality. Her heart quickened as she studied him. His gait was athletic, rolling. His muscular shoulders twitched every six or eight steps. He radiated great assurance, as if he owned the hall. He was the right height --- a little less than six feet tall. Although his hair should have been light brown, not blue-black, and she still could not see his face, everything else about him was uncannily, thrillingly familiar. He could have been Charles’s double.
He dropped his hand from his ear. Excited, Eva moved quickly onward until she was walking almost parallel to him. He was surveying the crowd, his head slowly moving from right to left. Finally she saw his face. His chin was wider and heavier than Charles’s, and his ears flared slightly where Charles’s had laid flat against his skull. Overall he looked tough, like a man who had been on the losing end of too many fistfights.
But then his gaze froze on her. He stopped moving. He had Charles’s eyes— large and black, with flecks of brown, surrounded by thick lashes. She and Charles had lived together eight intimate years, and she knew every gesture, every nuance of his expressions, and how he reacted. His eyes radiated shock, then narrowed in fear. He tilted back his head --- pride. And finally there was the emotionless expression she knew so well when confronted with the unexpected. His lips formed the word Eva.
The room seemed to fade away, and the chattering talk vanished as she tried to breathe, to feel the beat of her heart, to know her feet were planted firmly on the floor. She struggled to think, to understand how Charles could still be alive. Relief washed through her as she realized she had not killed him. But how could he have survived the car crash? Abruptly her grief and guilt turned into stunned rage. She had lost two years because of him. Lost most of her friends. Her reputation. Her career. She had mourned and blamed herself --- while he had been alive the entire time.
As he scowled at her, she pulled out her cell phone, touched the keypad, and focused the cell’s video camera on him.
His scowl deepened, and with a jerk of his head, he cupped his left ear and dove into the crowd.
“Charles, wait!” She rushed after him, dodging people, leaving a trail of disgusted remarks.
He brushed past an older couple and slid deeper into the masses. She raised up on her toes and spotted him skirting a display cabinet. She ran. As he elbowed past a circle of women, his shoulder hit a waiter carrying a tray of full wineglasses. The tray cartwheeled; the glasses sailed. Red wine splashed the women. They yelled and slipped on their high heels.
While guests stared, security guards grabbed radios off their belts, and Charles dashed out the door. Eva tore after him and down the stairs. The guards shouted for them to stop. As she reached the landing, a sentry peeled away from the wall, lowering his radio.
“Stop, miss!” He raced toward her, pendulous belly jiggling.
She put on a burst of speed, and the guard had no time to correct. His hands grabbed at her trench coat and missed. Stumbling forward, he fell across the railing, balancing precariously over the full-story drop.
She stopped to go back to help, but a man in a dark blue peacoat leaped down three steps and pulled the guard back to safety.
Cursing the time she had lost, Eva resumed her pell-mell run down the steps, the feet of guards hammering behind her. When she landed on the first floor, she accelerated past the elevators and into the cavernous Great Court. Thunder cracked loudly overhead, and a burst of rain pelted the high glass dome.
She saw Charles again. With an angry glance back at her across the wide expanse, he hurtled past a hulking statue of the head of the Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III.
She chased after, following him into the museum’s Front Hall. Visitors fell back, silent, confused, as he rushed past. Two sentries were standing on either side of the open front door, both holding radios to their ears and looking as if they had just been given orders.
As Charles approached them, she saw his back stiff en.
His words floated back to her, earnestly telling the pair in Charles’s deep voice, “She’s a madwoman…She has a knife.”
Enraged, she ran faster. The guards glanced at each other, and Charles took advantage of their distraction to lunge between them and sprint out into the stormy night.
Silently Eva swore. The two guards had recovered and were standing shoulder to shoulder, facing her, blocking the opening.
“Halt,” the taller of the two commanded.
She bolted straight at them. As their eyes narrowed, she paused and slammed the heels of her hands into each man’s solar plexis in teishō karate strikes.
Surprised, the air driven from their lungs, they staggered, giving her just enough of an opening. In seconds she was outside. Cold rain bled in sheets from the roiling sky, drenching her, as she rushed down the stone steps.
Charles was a black sliver in the night, arms swinging as he propelled himself across the long forecourt toward the museum’s entry gates.
“Dammit, Charles. Wait!”
The shriek of a police siren was growing louder, closer. Breathing hard, she raced after him and out onto Great Russell Street. Vehicles cruised past, their tires splashing dark waves of water up onto the sidewalk. Pedestrians hurried along, umbrellas open, a phalanx of bobbing rain gear.
As she slowed, looking everywhere for Charles, hands grabbed her from behind. She struggled, but the hands held fast.
“You were told to halt,” a museum guard ordered, panting.
Another one ripped away her shoulder satchel.
A Metropolitan Police car screeched to the curb. Uniformed bobbies jumped out and pushed Eva against the car, patting her down. Frustrated, furious, she twisted around and saw Charles step into a taxi near the end of the block. As she stared, its red taillights vanished into traffic.
It was three o’clock in the afternoon, the sun bright, almost overwhelming after the cold gray rain of London, when Eva walked through the centuries-old Monti section of Rome. Just south of Via Nazionale, Monti was an oasis of artists, writers, and the monied, and was seldom listed in tourist guides. Tall ivy-covered houses lined the street, interrupted only by cobblestone alleyways not much wider than a Roman chariot. Pedestrians strolled along the streets.
Clasping her shoulder satchel to her side, Eva risked a glance back. As expected, Judd was still several houses behind, looking Mediterranean in his sunglasses, swarthy face, and arched nose. They had stopped to buy new clothes so they would fit in with the warmer weather and locals’ tastes. He wore a loose brown sports jacket, an open-necked blue shirt, and Italian jeans. She wore Italian jeans, too, with a green shirt and jacket.
As Fiats and scooters rushed by, she passed a leafy piazza filled with preschool children romping under the doting gazes of nannies. At last she crossed onto the busy street where Yitzhak Law lived.
As he followed Eva, Judd covertly scrutinized the bustling area, picking out the three-person team Tucker Andersen had sent to watch over Professor Law’s home.
Across the street was one: a man with a cloth shopping sack, dressed in a worn business suit and sitting on a bench. A quarter block away was another --- what appeared to be an elderly woman, sunk into a beach chair beneath a pepper tree outside a trattoria while she read the Italian daily La Repubblica. The third was a youthful skateboarder in sunglasses and a backpack. He slalomed lazily past, wearing earphones as his hips gyrated to music.
Judd used his mobile to call the skateboarder—the team leader. “Anything new, Bash?”
The unit had been in place an hour, not as long as he would have liked, but they’d had to be assembled from Catapult’s undercover officers already on operations in and near Rome.
“Everything’s cool, man. No one’s gone in or left,” Bash Badawi reported. He sailed his skateboard off the curb.
“Let me know if the situation changes.”
Judd watched Eva moving ahead, her stride long and confident, her red hair blazing in the shimmering sunlight. He picked up his pace.
As he passed her, he said without moving his lips, “It’s safe. Go in.”
Yitzhak Law’s house was a three-story building of aged yellow stone with large windows and white shutters. Eva ran up the worn steps and touched the bell. Chimes rang inside.
When the door opened, she smiled widely. “Buon giorno, Roberto.” Roberto Cavaletti was Yitzhak’s longtime partner.
“Do not just stand there, Eva. Come in, come in. I am delighted.” He kissed her on both cheeks, his close-cropped brown beard prickling. Short and lean, he gave the appearance of a sleek fox, with a long, intelligent face and bright brown eyes.
“I’ve brought a friend,” she warned.
She turned and nodded in Judd’s direction. Glancing around, Judd was soon at her side, and they stepped into an entryway of antiques and paintings. The fragrant scents of a spicy tomato sauce lingered in the air. In Rome, lunch was traditionally the largest meal of the day and eaten between noon and three o’clock at home, which was why she had high hopes of finding Yitzhak here.
She introduced Judd as her traveling friend from America.
“Benvenuto, Judd. Welcome.” Roberto shook his hand enthusiastically. “You are not jet-lagged? You do not look jet-lagged.” It was an ongoing concern of Roberto’s, who never traveled beyond the borders of Rome’s time zone, despite Yitzhak’s frequent invitations to accompany him.
“Not a speck of jet lag,” Judd assured him.
Relieved, Roberto turned to Eva, put his hands on his hips, and scolded, “You have not kept in touch.” With a single short sentence, he had covered the car crash, her guilty plea, and her imprisonment, at the same time letting her know as far as he was concerned they were still friends.
“You’re right, and it’s my fault. I loved the letter from you and Yitzhak.” She had not trusted the compassion in the men’s note, and so she had never answered it. With sudden clarity she saw how she had isolated herself.
“You are completely forgiven. Like the Pope, I am stern but magnanimous. Are you hungry? Would you like un caffè? It is dripping even now.” In Rome, coff ee was as important as wine.
“Coffee would be great,” she said. “The way you always make it, molto caldo.”
He smiled, acknowledging the compliment, and turned to Judd. “And you, Eva’s friend?”
“Absolutely. Let us help you.”
Roberto raised his brows at Eva. “He has good manners. I approve.” Then he whispered in her ear, “And he’s gorgeous.” He pointed in the Italian way with an outstretched hand, palm down, toward the hallway, then he followed them.
As they passed open doors showing a sitting room and a small, elegant dining room, she asked, “Is Yitzhak home? We’d love to see him, too.”
“Of course. And he will want to see you. You will take coffee to him. He is in his rifugio.”
They went into the modern kitchen, which gleamed with enameled white walls and a stainless-steel refrigerator and gas stove. The aroma of fresh coffee infused the airy room. Roberto poured coffee into a carafe, then arranged cups, a cream pitcher, a sugar bowl, and spoons on a tray.
He indicated the tray. “It is your responsibility, Judd.”
Judd picked it up. “Lead on.”
Roberto took them out into the hall again and toward the back of the house, where a broad staircase rose two floors. But he opened the door beneath, the stairs showing simple wood steps going down. Cool air drifted up. They ducked their heads and descended into the cellar, which reflected the house’s period in its rough brick walls and uneven brick floor.
In the center of the floor was the area’s dominant feature --- a ragged hole with wood steps, built only ten years before, going down into what seemed an abyss. Beside it lay a trapdoor of old bricks built on top of a plywood platform. The trapdoor was the exact dimensions of the hole, and when it was put into place, Eva knew, the bricks fit neatly into one another, hiding the hole.
Judd stared down and deadpanned, “Where are the flames? The screams of suffering souls?”
Roberto laughed. “This is not Dante’s Inferno, my new friend. You are about to see a glorious sight few others have. But then, this is Rome, once the caput mundi, the capital of the world, teeming with more than a million souls while Paris and London were mere outposts of mud huts. No wonder we Romans are so proud. Here is where I leave you.” He called down, “We have two more visitors, amore mio. Prepare yourself for a pleasant surprise.”
“More visitors?” Judd’s expression was curious, revealing nothing. The presence of outsiders would complicate their ability to find out quickly from Yitzhak what Charles’s message meant.
Roberto nodded and said mysteriously, “Eva will be happy about it.” He returned upstairs.
Eva had learned about the steep steps in previous visits. She turned and went down backwards, gripping the rail. Balancing the tray, Judd followed, and they entered the professor’s private preserve.
It was a vast area, illuminated by torchère lamps and encompassing the width of the house. The length stretched from the rear garden to the street, where there appeared to be a small tunnel at the edge of a long pile of rubble. The flooring was glowing purple Phrygian marble. Placed here and there on it were statues of nudes uncovered during the excavation. Pink marble columns partially exposed --- they were still mostly embedded in raw brown earth --- shone palely. One wall was revealed; it was smooth, flat brickwork displaying the meticulous craftsmanship of builders two thousand years ago. Its centerpiece, which always made Eva’s heart beat a little faster, was a stunning mosaic displaying Jupiter and Juno, king and queen of the Roman gods, reclining on thrones. Few had seen it since it was buried in antiquity.
She sensed Judd’s awe, and then an instant return to acute awareness. His gaze swept the room, where Yitzhak sat with a man and a woman in wood chairs around an unvarnished wood table on which lay his notes and reading glasses. An American, the professor was a world-renowned scholar of medieval Greek and Roman history, with an emphasis on Judaism. He had published a dozen books on the subject.
Eva put a smile on her face, and all three stood up. The professor hurried toward her, arms outstretched. He was a small, slope-shouldered man who exuded the energetic optimism of a Rome native. His face and belly were round, his gaze sharp, and his head completely bald, shining in the light. In his early sixties, he was fifteen years older than Roberto.
“My dear, it’s been far too long.” He enveloped her in his arms.
“Much too long.” She hugged him.
When he released her, she introduced him to Judd.
“You like my little sanctum sanctorum, Judd?” Yitzhak asked curiously. “It was once the domain of wealthy families in the Augustan era. Roberto saw some pottery shards beneath the cellar’s bricks when we had to do some repair work, and that’s how we discovered it.”
Eva explained, “Ancient Rome is a buried city, lying under layers of history forty-five feet deep in places. What you’re seeing is unusual --- more than eighty percent is still uncovered.”
Yitzhak said in a mock whisper, “Please don’t tell on us, Judd. We private homeowners do our digging like thieves in the night because we don’t want the Beni Culturali knocking on our doors to evict us. And they have a habit of doing just that, so they can make our little fi nds public.” He gazed around, his eyes glowing. “The silence and seclusion make the distant past seem eerily tangible, don’t they?”
“They do,” Judd agreed as he set the coff ee tray on the table. Then he said just what Yitzhak wanted to hear: “Your place is very beautiful.”
The professor smiled broadly, his round face crinkling. “You must meet my other guests. This is Odile and Angelo Charbonier, in from Paris by way of Sardinia. We’ve had a delightful lunch. But then, why not? We’re old friends. Such good old friends that Angelo’s been buying and reading my books for years, emphasis on ‘buying.’ ” He winked at Judd. “Who can ask more than that? Eva, I believe you already know the Charboniers.”
Angelo pumped Judd’s hand. “Delighted.” His French accent was light.
A little more than six feet tall and in his late forties, Angelo looked fresh-faced and vigorous in his open-necked white shirt, beige jacket, and slacks. His face was chiseled in the way of European men who spent long hours in the gyms of their exclusive athletic clubs. Although he was a rich investment banker, Eva had always found him to be a down-to-earth and charming companion at the openings and dinner parties where they had met.
Eva could read nothing on Judd’s smiling face as he responded, “It’s good to meet you.”
Always more reticent, Odile shook Judd’s hand and said simply, “A pleasure.”
“For me as well,” Judd said.
A little younger than Angelo, Odile was quieter, with refined features and perfectly coiffed platinum-blond hair. She made a graceful athletic figure in her highly expensive velour jacket and trousers. At the same time, there was a steely quality about her that no doubt had been useful as Angelo and she had climbed high in Paris society through his business connections and her philanthropic work.
After exchanging pleasantries with Judd, Angelo turned to Eva. “I am sorry about Charles. Of course his death was a tragedy. Will you forgive me for saying whatever happened, it was also an accident and surely not your fault? Charles was a great man, and you are a great lady. Odile and I have always been fond of you.”
He glanced at Odile, who gave a firm nod of agreement.
Odile shook Eva’s hand. “Oh, chérie, we are simply too sorry for words.”
Immediately, Angelo extended his hand, too. Touched, Eva took it. He pressed his lips against the back. When he looked up, he smiled into her eyes. “I’m glad you weren’t badly injured in the car accident.”
“Thank you, Angelo. Thank you, Odile. You’re both very kind.”
“Why didn’t I know you were coming, Eva?” Yitzhak complained, appraising her. “We’ve heard nothing from you in a very long time.”
“It’s all my fault,” she admitted. “I wasn’t sure ---”
“That we still adored you?” Yitzhak finished for her. “Silly girl. Of course we do.”
“You will be interested to know Yitzhak and I were just talking about the Library of Gold,” Angelo told her. “We missed the opening at the British Museum.”
“Ah, The Book of Spies. What a find.” Yitzhak bent over the table and picked up the carafe. “Who wants coffee?”
“Enjoy yourselves. I am going upstairs to ask Roberto for my usual aperitif,” Odile said.
As she climbed the steps, Yitzhak added cream and sugar as requested, then handed the cups around. As the four stood together, Eva glanced at Judd, who had been covertly studying the Charboniers. He smiled at her over his cup as he drank. She could read nothing in his gray eyes.
“If only Charles were still alive so he could have attended the opening,” the Frenchman said. “I am certain he would have given us another theory about the library’s location. His theories were always very clever.” He peered at Eva. “Were you able to go?”
“Yes. It was interesting, and The Book of Spies is fabulous.”
“I’m envious.” The professor sipped his coffee.
“What do you think Charles would have said?” Angelo asked curiously.
Before she could answer, Judd interrupted. “As a matter of fact, Charles did say something—in a way.”
Surprised, Eva stared at him.
“Eva,” he told her, “I think this is a good time to fill in the professor. No need to bore him with a long explanation. Just give him Charles’s message.”
Judd seemed to have decided it was safe to do so. Angelo Charbonier was a bibliophile, too, and perhaps he might be helpful --- or was Judd testing the Frenchman in some way?
“It’s something I discovered recently.” Eva paused. “It was just your name, ‘Law,’ and the date of Charles’s and my wedding anniversary in 2008 --- the one we spent with you and Roberto.
Do you know why Charles would leave a message for me like that?”
The professor frowned, trying to remember. He rubbed his chin. At last he chuckled. “Of course. My old brain had nearly forgotten. Charles left a secret gift for you, Eva --- or for an emissary if you sent one --- but you had to ask for it and mention the anniversary date.” He walked toward the ladder.
“It’s here?” Eva asked, excited.
Excerpted from THE BOOK OF SPIES © Copyright 2011 by Gayle Lynds. Reprinted with permission by St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved.