Thomas Hoover.

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"How about checking to see if you've got any video games?" He turned
around, startled in spite of himself. What had woken her? She was
probably wired. "Eva, why did you take off tonight? And what was that
nonsense you were yelling at me?"

"Maybe it wasn't nonsense. Alex said you were working for him. He said
you two were partners. It's not really true, is it?" She slumped into a
chair. She was wearing a light dressing gown, her hair tousled. With a
groan she rubbed at her eyes. "I don't need this."

"You can forget about Alex. He's playing way over his head. It's always
bad judgment to underestimate the other team's strengths." He reached
for her. "You've just got to decide who you trust. You might start with
Zeno. He's offered to help me get you out of Crete."

"And go where?" She moved against him. "Michael, they found me here.
They'll find me anywhere."

"Not if we turn this scene around and take the action to them. But
that's the next move. Right now, you just have to be out of Crete while
I do a little checking. How about flying to Miami, grabbing a plane
down to Nassau, then - "

"You're going to get me on the Ulysses or die trying, aren't you."

He decided to let the crack pass. It was true, however. If she ever saw
it, he was sure she'd start to understand.

"You know," she went on, "this afternoon I was merely worried. Now I'm
actually frightened. Guess I'm not as brave as I thought. I'm sorry
about tonight, running off like that."

"Not the first time I've had a woman give me the gate." He laughed,
then reached out and stroked her hair, missing the long tresses of the
old days. "Now, you can help me out with something. Does the name
Yakuza mean anything to you?"

"What are you talking about?" She studied him, puzzled.

"I probably shouldn't tell you this, maybe it'll just upset your
morning, but that wiseguy who broke up our party last night was a
Japanese hood. From the _Mino-gumi_ syndicate. Back home they're Numero
Uno. They run Tokyo and Osaka and they've got half the Liberal
Democratic Party in their pocket. Then there's the old CIA connection,
from days gone by."

"How do you know?"

"After you took off, our friend dropped in again. Uninvited as usual.
That's when Novosty finished him off with his Uzi and I got a closer

"Alex killed - ! My God, that makes three."

"By actual count. He's gone a little trigger happy in his old age. That
or he's very, very scared." He rubbed at the scratch on his neck,
remembering. "What if it's the Japanese mob that's behind this? They
have the funding, that's for sure. Among other things, they run
consumer loans in Japan, legalized loan sharking. They've got more
money than God."

"This is too much. I don't know anything about . . ." She rose,
trembling. "I'll go with you to Nassau, Michael. Let's take the Ulysses
and just disappear in the middle of the Atlantic."

"It's a deal." He beamed. "But first we've got to answer some
questions. You say the Yakuza are not part of anything you know about?"

"I'm only vaguely aware they exist."

"And you don't know who runs Mino Industries?"

"Never heard of it before."

"It's a bunch of nice, clean-cut mobsters. Problem is, one of the
owner's _kobun_, street men, tried to kill us tonight. Maybe we're
finally getting a little light at the end of the tunnel." He looked her
over. Eva was always beautiful in the mornings. There was something
wanton about her this time of day. "Come here a minute."

He took her and cradled her in his arms, then brushed his lips against
her brow. "You okay?"

"I think so." She took a deep breath.

"Never knew you to quit just because things got tough." He drew her
around. "You're the cryptography expert. Why don't we try to find out
what kind of phonetics Ventris's numerical correlates for Linear B
would produce from these numbers?"

"What are you talking about?" She rubbed at her eyes.

"You know, in my travels I've discovered something. A great mind often
has a touch of poetry. Sometimes, in order to think like the other guy,
you need to be a little artistic. So, I wonder . . . about that

"You mean - ?"

"Just a crazy, early morning idea." He patted the keyboard of the
laptop. "What if the mind behind it is using a system no computer in
the world would ever have heard of?"

"There's no such thing, believe me."

"Maybe yes, maybe no." He flipped open his book to the central section,
a glossy portfolio of photos. He'd shot them himself with an old Nikon.
"Take a look at this and refresh your memory."

She looked down at the photo of a large Minoan clay jar from the
palace, a giant _pithoi_, once a container for oil or unguents or water
for the bath. Along the sides were inscribed rows of wavy lines and
symbols. It was the Minoan written language, which, along with
cuneiform and hieroglyphics, was among the oldest in the world. "You
mean Linear B."

"Language of King Minos. As you undoubtedly remember, it's actually a
syllabary, and a damned good one. Each of these little pictures is a
syllable, a consonant followed by a vowel. Come on, this was your
thing, way back when. Look, this wavy flag here reads mi, and here,
this little pitchfork with a tail reads no." He glanced up. "Anyway,
surely you recall that Linear B has almost a hundred of these syllable
signs. But Ventris assigned them numbers since they're so hard to
reproduce in typeface. For example, this series here, _mi-no-ta-ro_
reads numerically as - " he checked the appendix, "13-52-59-02. Run them
together and _minotaro_ reads 13525902. And just like the early Greeks,
the Minoans didn't insert a space between words. If somebody was using
Linear B, via Ventris' system, the thing would come out looking like an
unintelligible string of numbers."

"You don't really - "

"You say you've tried everything else. NSA's Crays drew a blank. Maybe
you were looking for some fancy new encryption system when it was
actually one so old nobody would ever think of it. Almost four thousand
years old, to be exact."

"Darling, that's very romantic. You're improving in the romance
department." She gazed at him a second, then flashed a wry smile. "But
I can't say the same for the good-sense arena. No offense, but that's
like the kind of thing kids write to us suggesting. Nobody employs
anything remotely that simple these days."

"I knew you'd think I was crazy. You're not the first." He rose. "But
humor me. Just slice those number sequences into pairs and see what
they look like phonetically. Something to take your mind off all the
madness around here."

"Well, all right." She sighed, then settled unsteadily into the rickety
chair he'd just vacated. "Make you a proposition, sweetie. Get me some
coffee, nice and strong, and I'll forget I have good sense and play
with this a little."

"You're a trooper." He turned and headed for the kitchen. "I remember
that about you. Not to mention great in bed."

"We strive for excellence in all things."

Just as he reached the doorway, the kitchen light flicked on. It was
Adriana, in blue robe and furry slippers, now reaching up to retrieve
her coffee pan.

While Eva was typing away behind him, he leaned against the doorframe
in his still-wet clothes to watch a Greek grandmother shuffle about her
private domain preparing a traditional breakfast. He suspected no male
hand had ever touched those sparkling utensils. The Old World had its
ways, yesterday and forever.

While he drowsed against the doorjamb, the aroma of fresh Greek coffee
began filling the room. _Sarakin_. That was the Japanese name for their
homegrown loan sharks, the so-called salary-men financiers. He knew
that the Yakuza's four largest _sarakin_ operations gave out more
consumer loans than all of Japan's banks combined. If you added to that
the profits in illegal amphetamines, prostitution, bars, shakedowns of
businesses, protection rackets . . . the usual list, and you were
talking multi multibillions. The major problem was washing all that
dirty money. They routinely invested in respectable but losing
propositions abroad, on the sound theory that one dollar cleaned was
worth two unlaundered.

Was that what the Soviet scam was all about? Money from the Japanese
mob being laundered through loans to the USSR? What better way to wash
it? Nobody would ever bother asking where it came from.

But there was one major problem with that neat scenario. Politically
the Yakuza were ultra-rightist hardliners. So why would they expose
their money with the Soviets, laundered or not? Particularly now, with
so much political instability there - hardliners, reformers,
nationalists. Somehow it didn't compute.

"Michael, come here a second." The voice had an edge of triumph.

"What?" He glanced around groggily.

"Just come here and take a look at this." She was staring at the

He turned and walked over, still entranced by the heady, pungent
essence of fresh Greek coffee now flooding the room. "Is it anything - ?"

"Just look at it and tell me what you think." She leaned back from the
screen and shifted the Zenith toward him. The ice-blue letters cast an
eerie glow through the dull morning light. The color reflected off his
eyes, matching them.

"You did it already?"

"I started with a one-to-one replacement of numbers with letters. But
it's sequence-inverted, which means I had to . . . anyway, what do
think so far? Am I a genius or what?"

He drew a chair next to the screen and started to examine it. But at
that moment Adriana set a tray of coffee down beside the computer,
steaming and fresh, together with dark figs and two bowls of yogurt.

"_Kafe evropaiko_," she commanded, then thrust a cup into his hand.

"_Malista, efcharisto_." He absently nodded his thanks, took a sip of
the steaming brew, then returned his attention to the screen.

At first he thought he was just groggy, his vision playing tricks, but
then the string of letters began to come into focus. Incredible!

"Okay, what about this part here," he asked, pointing to the fourth
line, where the letters turned to nonsensical garbage, "and then down
here again?"

"That's what I was talking about. The interlacing switches there. It
happens every hundred numbers. They started by taking the second fifty
digits and interlacing them back into the first fifty. Then they
switched the algorithm and interlaced the third fifty digits ahead,
into the fourth fifty, but backwards. Then it repeats again."

"You figured all that out just fooling around with it?"

"Darling, I do this for a living, for godsake. After a while you have
good instincts." She tapped her fingers nervously on the wooden table,
then remembered the coffee and reached for a cup. "Nice little trick.
Standard but nice. Every so often you fold the data back into
themselves somehow. That way there are no repetitions of number
sequences - for words that are used a lot - to give you away. But once
you've played with this stuff as much as I have . . . anyway, it's
always the first thing I check for."


"Tell me the truth." She looked at him, sipping her coffee. "Can you
really still read this? It's been years."

"Memory like an elephant. Though you may have to help me along now and
then." He pointed. "Look. I think that word's modern Greek. They've
mixed it in where there's not an old word for something." He pushed
around the computer. "Want to run the whole data file through your
system? Clean it up?"

"My pleasure." She was clearing the screen. "I can't believe it just
fell apart like this. The reason our Crays didn't crack it was it's too
simple by half."

He reached for his coffee, feeling a surge of satisfaction. His hunch
had been dead on. Whoever came up with this idea for an encryption must
have been a fan of ancient Greek history, and a knowledgeable one. What
better cipher for Project Daedalus communiques than the language
Daedalus himself used? They'd taken that four-thousand-year-old tongue,
an archaic forerunner of ancient Greek, and then scrambled it using a
mathematical algorithm. Mino Industries was communicating with the
Soviets using an encoded version of Minoan Linear B.

It was absolutely poetic. It also appeared, upon first examination, to
be very naive. Yet upon reflection it turned out to be brilliant. You
convert a totally unheard-of language to numbers, throw in a few
encryption tricks, and the result is something that would drive all the
hotdog DES-oriented supercomputers crazy. All those chips would be
trying trillions of keys when there actually was no key. Yes, you had
to admit it was inspired.

Except the Daedalus crowd was about to experience a problem, a small
headache. Make that a major headache. Because their secret protocol was
about to become headlines. He figured that ought to go a long way
toward stopping any more shooting.

"Okay. It's humming." She reached for her yogurt. "This time around all
the garbage will be gone." She took a bite, then burst out laughing.
"You know, this is wonderful, working with you. Darling, I've just
decided. Let's do something together, maybe live on the Ulysses for a
while. I might even get to like it. It sounds romantic."

"I'm still looking for the romance in life."

"Well, love, you've found it. It's me." She leaned over and kissed him
on the lips. "End of quest."

"Thought I'd never hear you say that. But first you have to help me
translate this. I'm over a decade out of date. My modern Greek's a
little rusty too, and a lot of the technical terms in this look to be
transliterated - "

"No, sweetie, that's not the first thing we have to do. The first thing
is to make sure you've got a separate copy of anything you're working
with. Not in the computer. I'll spare you my horror stories about
erased files, hard disks going down, all the rest." She was rising,
energized. "Cardinal computer rule number one. Always dupe anything
you're working on, no matter how sure you are nothing can go wrong.
Believe me."

"Sounds good." He looked up. "What are you doing?"

"I need that disk I showed you tonight. We can use it for the backup.
It's in my purse, which I now realize I left in the car when I came in.
I was slightly crazy at the time." She was turning. "God, it seems like

"Look, why don't you let me - ?"

"You don't know where I parked it. My secret hiding place."

"Maybe we ought to send Zeno, or Adriana - "

"Just sit tight. Only be a minute." She wrapped her coat about her and,
before he could protest, disappeared out the door, humming.

She was a marvel. Everything he'd remembered.

"Are you still awake?" Zeno was trudging into the room, still wearing
his frayed nightshirt.

"We just solved the riddle of the sphinx, old friend. Except now we
have to translate it."

"You should be sleeping, Michael. Go now, catch an hour or so. I will
start making arrangements. Get tickets for you both on the car ferry to
Athens, a pistol, maybe new passports if you want. We have work to do."
He reached and took the cup of coffee Adriana was urging on him.

"All right. As soon as she gets back."

"What?" He froze, then looked toward the back. "What do you mean? I
thought she was still asleep."

"She went out to the car, wherever it is."

"I wish she had asked me. I would have been happy - "

"You know how she is. There's no stopping her when she gets rolling."

"This is not good." He turned and called to Adriana to bring his
trousers and shoes. "We must find her."

"You're right. It was stupid. Damned stupid." He was getting up. "Let's
do it together."


Thursday 6:28 A.M.

The morning air was sharp and she wished she'd grabbed one of Adriana's
black knit shawls before going out. Could she pass for one of those
stooped Greek peasant women? she wondered. Not likely. She shivered and
pulled her thin coat around her.

The rain was over now, leaving the air moist and fragrant, but the
early morning gloom had an ominous undertone. They'd found the key to
open the first box, but the message inside still had to be translated.
What was it? What could possibly be in the protocol that would make
somebody want to kill her?

She stared down the vacant street leading away from the square, a
mosaic of predawn shadows, and tried to think.

Alex Novosty was the classic middleman, that much was a given. But then
she'd known that for years. Yes, she'd known about Alex Novosty all her
life - his work for the KGB, his laundering of Techmashimport funds. She
knew about it because they were second cousins. Fortunately their
family tie was distant enough not to have made its way into NSA's
security file, but around the Russian expatriate dinner tables of
Brighton Beach and Oyster Bay, Alex was very well known indeed. He was
the Romanov descendant who'd sold out to the Soviets, an unforgivable
lapse of breeding.

But for all that, he wasn't an assassin. For him to do what he'd done
tonight could only mean one thing: he was terrified. Very out of
character. But why?

The answer to that wasn't hard: He must be mixed up in Project
Daedalus, whatever it was, right up to his shifty eyeballs. But what
about Michael? What did Alex want from him?

The answer to that could go a lot of ways. When she first met Michael
Vance, Jr., she'd been smitten by the fact he was so different. Always
kidding around, yet tough as steel when anybody crossed him. A WASP
street fighter. She liked that a lot. He was somebody she felt she
could depend on, no matter what.

She still remembered her first sight of Mike as though it were
yesterday. She was taking notes on Etruscan pottery in a black
notebook, standing in a corner of the Yale art gallery on Chapel
Street, when she looked up and - no, it couldn't be. She felt herself
just gawking.

He'd caught her look and strolled over with a puzzled smile. "Is my tie
crooked, or - " Then he laughed. "Name's Mike Vance. I used to be part of
this place. How about you?"

"Vance?" She'd just kept on staring, still not quite believing her
eyes. "My thesis adviser at Penn was . . . you look just like him."

And he did. The same sharp chin, the same twinkle in the blue eyes.
Even when he was angry, as Mike certainly had been that day, he seemed
to be having fun.

Thus it began.

At first they were so right for each other it seemed as though she'd
known Michael Vance for approximately a hundred years, give or take.
She'd been one of his father's many ardent disciples, and after
finishing her master's at Penn, she'd gone on to become a doctoral
candidate at Yale, where she'd specialized in the linguistics of the
ancient Aegean languages. She'd known but forgotten that Michael Vance,
Sr., had a son who was finishing his own doctorate at Yale, writing a
dissertation about Minoan Crete.

That day in the museum he was steaming, declaring he'd dropped by one
last time as part of a ritualistic, formal farewell to archaeology. The
decision was connected with the hostile reception being given a book
he'd just published, a commercial version of his dissertation. As of
that day he'd decided to tell academia to stuff it. He'd be doing
something else for a living. There'd been feelers from some agency in
D.C. about helping trace hot money.

In the brief weeks that followed they grew inseparable, the perfect
couple. One weekend they'd scout the New England countryside for old-
fashioned inns, the next they'd drive up to Boston to spend a day in
the Museum of Fine Arts, then come back and argue and make love till
dawn in her New Haven apartment. During all those days and nights, she
came very close to talking him out of quitting university life. Close,
but she didn't.

He had put off everything for a couple of months, and they had traveled
the world - London, Greece, Morocco, Moscow. Once their parents even met,
at Count Sergei Borodin's sprawling Oyster Bay home. It was a convoca-
tion of the Russian Nobility Association, with three hundred guests in
attendance, and the air rang with Russian songs and balalaikas. Michael
Vance, Sr., who arrived in his natty bowler, scarcely knew what to make
of all the Slavic exuberance.

Shortly after that, the intensity of Michael became too much for her.
She felt herself being drawn into his orbit, and she wanted an orbit of
her own. The next thing she knew, he'd departed for the Caribbean; her
father had died; and she'd gone back to work on her own doctorate.

Michael. He was driven, obsessive, always determined to do what he
wanted, just as she was. But the tension that likeness brought to their
relationship those many years ago now made everything seem to click.
Why? she wondered.

Maybe it was merely as simple as life cycles. Maybe back then they were
just out of synch. He'd already survived his first midlife crisis, even
though he was hardly thirty. When they split up, she'd been twenty-five
and at the beginning of a campaign to test herself, find out what she
could do.

Well, she thought, she'd found out. She was good, very good. So now

She was relieved to see the car was still parked on the side street,
actually a little alley, where she'd left it. Thinking more clearly
now, she realized she'd been a trifle careless, stashing the car in the
first location she could find and then running for Zeno's.

As she headed down the alley in between the white plaster houses, she
suddenly felt her heart stop. Someone was standing next to the Saab, a
dark figure waiting. She watched as it suddenly moved briskly toward

Alex Novosty.

"What?" She couldn't believe her eyes.

"_Budetya ostorozhyi_!" He whispered the warning as he raised his hand
and furtively tried to urge her back.

"_Kak! Shto - ?_" She froze. "How did you find the car?"

"The hotel. They directed us to a _kafeneion _near here, but then I
noticed your car. I thought . . ." He moved out of the shadows,
quickly, still speaking in Russian. "Just tell me where you have the
copies of the protocol, quickly. Maybe I can still handle it."

"Handle what?" That's when she saw the two other men, in dark
overcoats, against the shadow of the building.

"The . . . situation." His eyes were intense. "They want it back, all
copies. I've tried to tell them that killing you won't solve anything,
but - " He glanced back with a small shiver. "You must tell them Michael
has a copy, stall them."

"It's true. He does."

"No! Then say there's a copy back in your office. Just let me try and - "

"Alex, I'm not going to play any more of your games."

"Please," he continued in a whisper, "don't contradict anything I say.
Let me do the talking. I'll - "

"You're in it with them, aren't you?" She tried to push past. "Well,
you can tell your friends we're onto their 'project.' If anything
happens to me, Michael will track them down and personally take them
apart. Tell them that."

"You don't understand." He caught her arm. "One of their people was
killed tonight."

"The one trying to shoot Michael and me, you mean?" She was trying to
calm the quaver in her voice.

"He was killed by the KGB. I had nothing to do with - "

"Is that what you told them?"

"That's the way it happened. There was an argument."

"Over what?"

"Everybody wants you. It's the protocol." His look darkened. "Eva, they
are in no mood for niceties."

"Neither am I." She noticed the two men were now moving toward them.
One was taller and seemed to be in charge, but they both were carrying
what looked like small-caliber automatic weapons.

The protocol, whatever it was, was still in code. She didn't know what
she didn't know. How could she bargain?

It was too late to think about it now. Their faces were hard and
smooth, with the cold eyes of men who killed on command. My God, she
thought, what had Michael said about the _Mino-gumi_?

The Japanese mob.

The taller man, she was soon to learn, was Kazuo Ina- gawa, who had
been a London-based _kobun _for the _Mino-gumi _for the past decade. He
had a thin, pasty face and had once been first _kobun_ for their entire
Osaka organization, in charge of gambling and nightclub shakedowns.
Even in the early dawn light, he wore sunglasses, masking his eyes.

The shorter one was Takahashi Takenaka, whose pockmarked face was
distinguished by a thin moustache, an aquiline nose, and the same

Alex, she realized, must have lied to them, covering up what really
happened out at the palace. Now he was bluffing for his life.

"You can just tell them I don't know anything about it." She felt the

Online LibraryThomas HooverProject Daedalus → online text (page 10 of 30)