cold air closing in.
"Eva, that's impossible. They know you were given the protocol. Now
where is it?"
He clearly wanted her to say it was somewhere else. But why bother?
"It's in the car. In my purse." She pointed. "Why don't they just go
ahead and take it? By the way, it's still encrypted."
She fumbled in her pockets. "Here's . . ."
Then she realized she'd left the key in the car. There it dangled,
inside the locked door. Her purse rested on the seat across from the
"Get it," Inagawa commanded his lieutenant. Takenaka bowed obediently,
then turned and tried the door handle, without success.
"_So_." He frowned.
Inagawa muttered a curse and brutally slammed the butt of his automatic
against the curved window. The sound of splintering glass rent the
Quickly Novosty stepped forward and reached through to unlock the door.
Then he pulled it open and leaned in.
Why is he doing it? she wondered. Easy answer: He's trying to keep
control of the situation.
Whose side is he really on?
Then he backed out and handed her the brown leather purse while he
tried to catch her eye.
She took it, snapped it open, and lifted out the gray computer disk.
"There," she said as she handed it to Inagawa, "whatever's on it,
you'll have to figure it out for yourself."
"That can't be the only one," Novosty sputtered. "Surely there are
"That's it, sweetheart."
Inagawa turned it in his hand, then passed it to Takenaka and said
something in Japanese. The other man took it, then barked _"Hai" _and
"Are you sure this is the only copy?" Inagawa asked.
"The only one."
He nodded to his lieutenant, who began screwing a dark silencer onto
the barrel of his automatic.
Oh my God, she thought. They're going to finish the job.
"Wait." Novosty reached for his arm. "She's lying. This is a disk from
a computer. There must be other copies."
"Yes." She was finally coming to her senses. "There are plenty of other
copies. In my computer. In - "
"Where is it?" Inagawa looked at her.
"It's - it's at the hotel. The Galaxy." She was trying desperately to
think. "And then I left another - "
"You're lying. We have been there. They said a tavern keeper came and
took all your luggage." He was staring down the street, toward Zeno's
place. "They also told us where he could be found. We will go there
"My friends," Novosty interrupted again, "it would be most unwise to
attempt any violence on a Greek national here. The consequences could
be extremely awkward, for all of us."
"We must retrieve it."
"But why not do it the easy way?" He tried to smile. "There's another
man here, traveling with her. We should work through him. I know he
will deal. He's a professional."
"Who is he?"
"An American. If we hold her, keep her alive, we can use her to make
him bring it to us. We can offer a trade."
"No. We will just find him and take it." Inagawa started to move.
"He's armed, my friends," Novosty continued evenly. "He's also
experienced. There would be gunfire, I promise you. If that happened,
you could have the entire street here filled with rifles in a minute.
You do not know these people as I do. They still remember World War Two
and the Resistance. Killing unfriendly foreigners became a way of life
some of them have yet to forget."
Alex is bluffing, she thought. Again. Michael doesn't have a gun. Does
Zeno? Who knows?
"Let me try and talk to him," Novosty continued. "Surely something can
be worked out."
"You will stay here, with us." Inagawa seized his arm, then turned and
began a heated exchange with his partner. Again Takenaka bowed
repeatedly, sucking in his breath and muttering hai. At last they
seemed to arrive at a consensus, though it was the taller man who'd
actually made the decision, whatever it was.
"She comes with us."
"Oh, no I don't." She looked at Novosty, who seemed defeated, then back
at the Japanese. She suddenly realized she was on her own. Novosty had
played all his cards. "If I don't reappear in Washington day after
tomorrow, you'll have the entire U.S. National Security Agency looking
for me. People know I'm here. So think about that."
"That is not our concern." Inagawa reached for her. "We do not work for
the American government." Then he turned to Novosty. "Tell your friend
that this woman will be released when we have all copies of the
protocol. All. Do you understand?"
"But how can I tell him if you won't let me - ?"
"That is your problem."
"Perhaps . . . perhaps we should just leave a message here," Novosty
sputtered. "I'm sure he'll find the car."
"Alex, I'm not going anywhere with these animals." She drew back.
"Don't worry. I'll take care of everything."
"No, I'm not - "
That was all she could say before a hand was roughly clapped against
her mouth, her body shoved against the broken window.
Mike Vance and Zeno Stantopoulos searched for over half an hour before
they found the Saab. When they did, the left-hand window was broken,
and Eva's purse was missing. She was missing too. The only thing
remaining was a hastily scrawled note from Alex Novosty.
Saturday 6:13 P.M.
"Vance?" The portly, balding desk clerk studied his computer screen at
the Athenaeum Inter-Continental. Here in this teeming marble lobby the
new world met the old. "Dr. M. Vance. Yes, we have your reservation."
Good. Novosty had done exactly what he said. The play was going down.
"Welcome back." The man looked up and smiled, his eyes mirroring the
green numbers on the screen as he looked over Vance's shoulder. "Our
records show you were just with us, four days ago. We still have your
old room, if you like."
"That would be fine."
He was back in a city renowned as much for its hospitality as for its
mind-numbing brown haze of smog. It was also said to be the safest city
in Europe, with a miniscule crime rate. However, Michael Vance did not
feel safe as he stood in the lobby of Athens's most luxurious hotel.
"Were you on a bus tour of the Peloponnisos, perhaps?" the clerk
continued with a pale smile, his voice trying for perfunctory
brightness. "The Mycenean ruins in the south are always - "
"Business." Vance tossed his passport onto the counter. They both knew
he didn't look anything like a candidate for a four-day CHAT package
tour on a bus. But the man seemed nervous, anxious to make
"I'll be needing a car in the morning. Early. Is that in your
reservation file too?"
"No problem." The clerk ignored, or missed, his impatient tone. "We
have a Hertz outlet now, just over there," he pointed, "next to the
travel desk. I'm sure they will be happy to arrange for it."
Vance tossed his Amex card onto the counter, then reached for the slate
clipboard holding the registration slip. Dusk was falling outside, but
here in the warm glow of chandeliers the moment felt like sleepwalking.
His mental bearings kept shifting. Nothing was real. He wanted to think
it was merely routine, like checking into a thousand other streamlined
international hotels, something he'd done more times than he cared to
count. But that was wrong; danger lurked somewhere nearby. His senses
were warning him.
He kept thinking about Eva. Was she serious about getting back
together, sailing on the Ulysses? Maybe he didn't know her as well as
he thought, which was troubling for a lot of reasons, not the least
being that right now he needed to be able to think exactly the way she
did. They'd have to work as a perfectly coordinated team tomorrow, with
"May I have someone take your bag?" The clerk glanced down at the new
leather suitcase sitting on the floor, then reached to ring for a
"No." Vance lunged to stop his hand.
Whoa, he lectured himself, chill out. Keep the lid on. Why not just let
it happen? Here. Maybe you want them to do it here. Why wait?
The clerk tried to hold his composure. "As you wish. Of course you know
"I can find it." He tried to smile, then thumbed over his shoulder.
"You're busy anyway. The tour coming in . . ."
"Yes." The clerk was shoving across the heavy brass key. "You remember
our schedule. Breakfast is served until ten over there in the dining
room, eleven in your room."
"Thanks." He picked up the bag, heavy, and turned.
The rental car desk was across the lobby, past the tour group now
pouring through the revolving doors. They clearly were just off a Paris
flight, chattering in French, brandishing tour badges, and quarreling
about luggage with Gallic impatience.
"I need a car for tomorrow. Early."
The dark-haired woman at the desk looked up as he began fishing for his
credit card and driver's license. Her Hertz uniform was unbuttoned down
the front to display as much of her bosom as Greek propriety, perhaps
even the law, would permit. A heavy silver chain nestled between her
"Our pleasure." She swept back her hair as she mechanically shoved
forward a typed sheet encased in smudged cellophane. "We have some new
Austin subcompacts, or if you want a full-size - "
"What's the best car you've got?" It would be a long drive, over
uncertain Greek roads. He wanted to take no chances.
"We do have an Alfa, sir. Only one. A Milano." She absently adjusted
the V-neck of her uniform. "For VIPs. I should warn you it's
expensive." She bent forward to whisper. "To tell you the truth, _ine
poli akrivo_. It's a rip- off." She leaned back, proud of her new
American slang. "Take my advice and - "
"Can you have it here, out front, at six in the morning?"
"I can check." She sniffed, then reached for the battered phone. A
quick exchange in Greek followed, then she hung up. "They say it just
came in. There should be no problem."
He glanced around the lobby once more as she picked up the charge card
and license to begin filling out the form. There was still no sign, no
indication. And yet the whole scene felt wrong. Something, something
was warning him.
That's what it was. The man standing across the lobby, at the far side
next to the elevators. He had a newspaper folded in his hand, but he
wasn't reading. He was speaking into it.
Hotel security? Not a chance. For one thing, he wasn't Greek. Although
he was too far away to see his face, something about the way he stood
gave him away.
Where the hell was Novosty? This wasn't supposed to be the drill.
He suddenly found himself wondering how much clout Alex had left. Maybe
Novosty was out of the play. Maybe the rules had changed.
"Could you please hurry that along." He turned back to the dark-haired
"You said you wouldn't be needing the car until tomorrow, sir." Formal
"I just changed my mind. I'd like it tonight. Right now, as a matter of
"Do you want the insurance? It will be an extra - "
"No. Yes. Look, I don't care. Just let me sign that damned thing and
give me the keys."
"Well, give me a chance." She petulantly turned the form toward him and
shoved it across the desk. "If you'll just initial here and here," she
was pointing with her pen, "and sign there. And did you say you wanted
the car now?"
"I'm afraid that's not possible." She retrieved the form.
"It's just - "
"Then give me something else." He glanced toward the man, still
speaking into his newspaper, then back. They would make their move any
second now. "What's the problem with the car?"
"I'm trying to tell you it just came in. Our people will need at least
half an hour to clean it, go over the checklist. So if you'd like to
have a cup of coffee in the dining room, I'll call you when - "
"Where is it now?"
"They said it's just been returned. It's probably parked somewhere
outside." She gestured toward the glass revolving door. "Across the
street. That's where they usually - "
"That's right. Dark blue. But like I said, it's not - "
"Give me the keys."
"They're probably still in it. Our people - "
"Thanks." He reached down for the suitcase.
"Your card, sir, and your license." She pushed the items across with a
tight smile, clearly happy to be rid of him.
As he reached for them, out of the corner of his eye he saw the first
movement. The man had stuffed the newspaper, and walkie-talkie, into
his trench coat and was approaching across the marble lobby. Just as
Vance expected, the garb was polyester, the hair a slicked-up punch-
perm, but he still couldn't make out the face.
He didn't need to. He knew who they were. The encounter at Knossos
flashed through his mind.
They know I've got a copy of their protocol. And until that gets iced,
there's always a chance their secret is no longer a secret. But they
can't know we've cracked the encryption. Unless she told them. Which
she never would.
No, they couldn't know that yet, which meant he still had the
bargaining chip he'd need.
Except for one problem. They were about to try and break the rules.
Just like the old days. Maybe they'd forgot he knew how to break rules
As he pushed through the milling crowd of French tourists, suitcases
and knapsacks piling up near the entrance, he sensed the man was
gaining. But only a few feet more and he'd be at the revolving door.
This wasn't going to be easy. There'd be a backup. Probably just
outside, at the entrance.
As he reached for the rubber flange of the revolving door, he knew the
man was just behind him, maybe two steps. Just right. He turned to see
a hand emerge from the polyester suit jacket, grasping a Heckler & Koch
KA1 machine pistol, a cut-down version of the MP5.
The barrel was rising, the hard face closing in. But it was the
suitcase he wanted.
So why not give it to him?
"Here." He jammed his foot into the revolving door, leaving a small
opening, then wheeled around, hoisting the case. The quick turn brought
just enough surprise to break his attacker's momentum. As the man
involuntarily raised his left hand, Vance caught his right wrist, just
back of the pistol's grip, and shoved it forward, into the door. Then
he brought up his elbow and smashed it into the attacker's jaw. As the
man groaned, he caught his other wrist and shoved him around.
He rammed his shoulder against the revolving door, closing it and
wedging the gun inside.
"Let's keep this simple, okay? No muss, no fuss."
He threw his full weight against the man's body, bending him back
around the curved metal and glass of the door. There was a snap and a
muted groan as the wrist bones shattered. The machine pistol clattered
to the marble floor inside the circular enclosure.
"Sorry about that." Before the attacker could regain his balance, he
kneed him into the next revolving partition and rammed it closed. Only
one foot remained outside, kicking at an awkward angle across the
Now where's the other one? He glanced around as he drew away. There's
sure to be two. Somebody was on the other end of that radio. Novosty?
Did he set this up?
He swept up the suitcase and shouldered his way through the auxiliary
door on the side. Odd, but the scuffle had gone unnoticed amid the din
of the arriving tour. Or maybe Parisians weren't ruffled by anything so
everyday as an attempted murder.
As he emerged onto the street, he saw what he was looking for. The
other assailant was waiting just across the wide entryway, past the
jumble of bellboys, taxi drivers, and the last straggle of tourists
coming off the bus.
Their eyes met, and the man's right hand darted inside his dark suit
Use the crowd, Vance thought. Enough hand-to-hand heroics. These guys
Since the pile of luggage coming off the bus separated them, he had an
advantage now, if only for a second or so. Without thinking he seized
the straps of a canvas knapsack sitting on the sidewalk with his free
hand and flung it with all his strength.
It caught his attacker squarely in the chest, breaking his rhythm and
knocking him back half a step. It was only a moment's reprieve, but it
was all Vance needed to disappear around the rear of the bus, which was
pouring black exhaust into the evening air, blocking all view of the
avenue. Maybe he could move fast enough to just disappear.
As he dashed into the honking traffic, headlights half blinding him, he
surveyed the street opposite looking for the Alfa.
There? No. There?
A pair of headlights swerved by, inches away, accompanied by honking
and a cursing Greek driver. Only a few feet more now and he'd be
There. A blue Alfa. It had to be the one.
But it was already moving, its front wheels turning inward as the Hertz
attendant backed it around to begin pulling out.
He wrenched open the door and seized a brown sleeve. The arm inside
belonged to a young Greek, barely twenty, his uniform grease-covered
and wrinkled. He looked up, surprise in his eyes, and grabbed for the
"Change of plans." Vance heard the Alfa's bumper slam against the car
parked behind as the startled attendant's foot brushed against the
"Out." Vance yanked him around and shoved him toward the asphalt
pavement. "And stay down."
Now the bus had begun pulling out from the entryway across the street.
Although traffic still clogged the avenue, he was a clear target.
He threw the suitcase onto the seat, then slid in and reached to secure
the door. As he pulled it shut, he heard the ping of a bullet
ricochetting off metal somewhere. Next came a burst of automatic fire
that seemed to splatter all around him.
The young Greek pulled himself up off the pavement and reached . . .
"Down." Vance waved him away as he shifted the transmission into drive.
At that moment a slug caught the young attendant in the shoulder,
spinning him around. He gave a yelp of surprise, then stumbled
backward. But now he was out of the way, clear, with what was probably
only a flesh wound.
Vance shoved his foot against the accelerator, ramming the rear fender
of the car in front, then again, knocking it clear. Another spray of
bullets spattered through the back window as he pulled into the flow of
Your time will come, friend, he told himself. Tomorrow, by God, we
finish this little dance.
He finally became aware of the pumping of his own heart as he made his
way north up Syngrou Avenue, trying to urge the traffic forward by
The thing now was to get out of Athens, take Leoforos Athinon west,
then head up the new Highway 1 toward the mountains, lose them in the
country, find some place to spend the night. His final destination was
only about two hundred kilometers away. He just had to be fresh and
ready tomorrow, with everything in place.
But at least he now knew the game had no rules. Maybe knowing that gave
him an edge. And so far his timing was still intact. He'd handled it.
Maybe not too well, maybe with too much risk, but he'd handled it.
Novosty's note had said there would be a straight swap. But the other
team clearly had no intention of bothering with niceties. Fine. That
cut both ways.
Sunday 11:45 A.M.
The place was Delphi, the location Novosty had specified. Heading
warily up the Sacred Way, Vance paused for a moment to take in the
view. From where he stood, the vista was majestic, overwhelming
humanity's puny scale. He'd always loved it. Toward the north the sheer
granite cliffs of the Phaedriades Mountains towered almost two thousand
feet skyward to form a semicircular barrier, while down below the river
Pleistos meandered through mile after mile of dark olive groves. It was
an eyeful of rugged grandeur, craggy peaks encircling a harsh plain
that stretched as far as the eye could see. Greece in the midday sun:
His destination, the ancient temple of the Delphic oracle farther up
the hill, overlooked this panorama, row center in a magnificient
natural amphitheater. The Greek legends told that the great god Zeus
had once dispatched two eagles, one flying east and one flying west, to
find out where they would meet. They came together at the center
of the earth, Delphi, whose main temple, the Sanctuary of Apollo,
contained the domelike boulder Omphalos, thereafter named the "navel of
the world." Here east and west met.
He'd parked the Alfa on the roadway down below, and now as he stared up
the mountainside, past the conical cypress trees, he could just make
out the remains of the stone temple where almost three thousand years
ago the priestess, the Delphic oracle, screamed her prophesies. She was
a Pythia, an ancient woman innocent of mind who lived in the depths of
the temple next to a fiery altar whose flame was attended night and
day. There, perched on a high tripod poised over a vaporous fissure in
the earth, she inhaled intoxicating gases, chewed laurel leaves, and
issued wild, frenzied utterances. Those incoherent sounds were
translated by priests into answers appropriate to the queries set
Delphi. He loved its remote setting, its sacred legends. Those stories,
in fact, told that the god Apollo had once summoned priests from Crete,
the ancient font of culture, to come here to create this Holy of
Was he about to become a priest too? After sending off a telegram to
the Stuttgart team, notifying them of a delay in his schedule, he'd
journeyed from that island back to Athens via the ANEK Lines overnight
car ferry from Iraklion. Not at all godlike. But it had a well-worn
forward section it called first class, and it was a low-profile mode of
travel, requiring no identity questions. He'd ended up in the bar of
the tourist section for much of the trip, stretched out on a stained
couch and napping intermittently during the twelve-hour voyage. It had
cleared his mind. Then from Piraeus, the port of Athens, he'd taken a
cab into the city. After that the hotel and the car.
As he stared up the hill, he had in his possession a wallet with nine
hundred American dollars and eighty thousand Greek drachmas, the
suitcase, and a Spanish 9mm automatic from Zeno. He also had a
translated version of the opening section of the protocol.
His anger still simmering, he continued up the cobbled path of the
Sacred Way, toward the exposed remains of the oracle's temple situated
halfway up the hill. Nothing was left of the structure now except its
stone floor and a few columns that had been re-erected, standing bare
and wistful in the sunshine. In fact, the only building at Delphi that
had been rebuilt to anything resembling its original glory was the
small marble "treasure house" of the Athenians, a showplace of that
city's wealth dating from 480 B.C. Today its simple white blocks
glistened in the harsh midday glare, while tourists milled around
speaking German, French, English, or Dutch. Even in the simmering heat
of noon, Delphi still attracted visitors who revered the ancient Greeks
as devoutly as those Greeks had once worshipped their own adulterous
gods and goddesses.
So where the hell was Novosty? Noon at the Temple of Apollo, his note
He searched the hillside looking for telltale signs of another ambush -
movement, color, anything. But there was nothing. Although tourists
wandered about, the temple ruins seemed abandoned for thousands of
years, their silence almost palpable. Even the sky was empty save for a
few swooping hawks.
If Alex is here waiting, he asked himself, where would he be?
Then he looked again at the treasure house. Of course. Probably in
there, taking a little respite from the blistering sun. It figured. The
front, its columns, and porch were open, and the interior would be
protected. Conveniently, the wide steps of the stone pathway led
directly past. A natural rendezvous.
In his belt, under his suede jacket, was Zeno's 9mm Llama. It was fully
loaded, with fifteen rounds in the magazine plus one up the tube. He
reached into his belt and eased off the safety.
Holding it beneath his coat, he continued on up the cobbled pathway
toward the front of the treasure house. As he moved into the shade of
the portico, he thought for a moment he heard sounds from inside. He
stopped, gripping the Llama, and listened.
Slowly, carefully, he walked up the steps. When he reached the top, he
paused, then gingerly stepped in through the open doorway. It was cool
and dank inside. And empty. His footsteps rang hollow on the stone
floor. Maybe Novosty's dead by now, he thought fleetingly. Maybe his