time, just another pampered Russian blue blood. Only years later did he
realize how self-centered he'd been. Maybe she'd been right; maybe they
weren't ready for each other yet.
She sighed, and then her voice came as a whisper. "You know, after you
called this morning and told me about that nightmare with Alex, I just
drank some retsina and went back to bed." She put on the shades,
adjusted them, and looked his way. He thought they went well with her
new forties hairstyle. "Michael, I know things I shouldn't. And the
things I should know, I don't. The worse part of all is, none of it
makes any sense." Her eyes seemed to soften behind the tinted plastic.
"Do you remember the first time you and I talked about this place?"
"Like it was yesterday." Who could forget? It was just after Realm was
published, relating his theory that the palace, whatever it may have
been originally, had eventually become a ceremonial necropolis, an
abode of the dead. "We ended up having a terrific argument over the
book. Nobody wanted to believe me, including you."
"Come on, darling, it wasn't my opinion you cared about. It was your
father's. The revered holder of Penn's Edelstein Chair of Classical
Antiquities. Supposedly the world's living expert on Minoan Crete."
Did he really care what the old man thought? he wondered. Not in the
way she meant. He would have liked it, though, if everybody had gotten
along a little better. Michael Vance, Sr., never quite knew what to
make of Eva's Slavic intensity, since it contrasted so vividly with his
own up-tight Anglo-Saxon instincts. That was a repressive family strain
Mike had fought - successfully, he hoped - to undo all his life. Eva had
looked to be the perfect soul mate in that battle. She was born
Her own father, Count Serge Borodin, was president emeritus of the
Russian Nobility Association in America, exiled aristocracy. They were
a people apart. He recalled in particular a Russian Orthodox wedding
they'd all attended once. The operative assumption that sunny afternoon
in Oyster Bay was that the czar had been a living god, the Romanovs the
world's last surviving cherubim. He still remembered the black-hatted
Orthodox prelates and the incense and the tinny balalaikas and all the
counts and countesses drunk and dancing and crying at the same time.
Growing up in the middle of that, she had to be exuberant.
"You'd gone off on your own and set the world of archaeology on its
ear," she continued. "Typical Michael. But your father refused to stick
up for you when all the shit came down. I guess I didn't support you
very well either, I admit now. I'm truly sorry, darling, looking back."
"No big deal. I could handle it."
"Sure." She reached over and patted his thigh. "You handled it just
great. You were disgusted. At me, at him, at all the 'stuffed-shirt'
academics who never went out on a dig and got their hands dirty. You
practically dragged me here to show me you were right. You were
obsessed with the palace, admit it."
"It wasn't that bad." He looked over at her. "Was it?"
"Let's not talk about it anymore, all right?" She sighed. "Christ."
"Fine with me." He was pulling off the main road, heading into the
flower-lined trail, the arcade of magenta bougainvillea that led down
toward the palace. "By the way, I brought along some ouzo." He
indicated a pint bottle in his coat. "What's a picnic without a little
"You think of everything."
"I also think we should park up here, dodge the tour-bus mayhem. Keep
the funny hats and loudspeakers to a minimum."
"Yes, please. Besides, I could use the air." She inhaled deeply.
Around them the few lingering white sprays of almond blossoms seemed
like remnants of late spring snow, while the ground itself was
blanketed with wild orchids, lavender and pink anemones, white
narcissus. He watched as she climbed out of the car, then stopped to
pluck a waxy yellow prickly pear flower, next an orange-blue Iris
_cretica_. He loved the flowers of Crete, and the afternoon was fra-
grant with the scent of jasmine and lemon blossoms. Ahead, down the
hill, was the parking lot for the palace, with two tour busses in
attendance, one just pulling out.
"How long has it been since we were last here together?" She brushed
her dark bangs back from her brow as she squinted into the waning sun,
sniffing at her cactus flower.
"It's beginning to seem like forever. But I think it's about - what? -
almost twelve years now."
"And how old is the palace supposed to be? I've gotten a little rusty."
"The latest theory going is that it was destroyed about fourteen
hundred B.C. So we're talking roughly three and a half thousand years
since it was last used."
"Guess our little decade doesn't count for much in the grand scheme."
"Time flies." He remembered how she'd been back then, that day so long
ago when she had been in her mid-twenties, as inviting as the brazen
ladies-in-waiting of the palace frescoes, and even more voluptuous.
_Mais, ce sont des Parisiennes_, a dazzled French scholar had marveled.
She was like that. Perfect sensuality. For a while he'd forgotten all
about archaeology and just concentrated on beauty.
The place where all this occurred was the Palace of Knossos, lovingly
restored in the early part of the twentieth century by the wealthy
English archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans. There an almost modern
civilization had flowered to magnificent heights, then mysteriously
vanished. The path leading to the palace down the hill was becoming
wider as they walked, opening on the distant olive groves in the
valley. The vista was stunning, probably the reason it had been built
He looked over and noticed she was digging in her purse again. This
time she drew out a pack of Dunhills. He watched while she flicked a
gold lighter, the one he'd given her as a present so long ago,
emblazoned with a lapis lazuli skull and crossbones. At the time, the
hint had worked. She'd quit.
"The return of the death wish? When did you start that again?"
"Last week." She defiantly took a puff.
"Any particular reason?"
"No, darling, I just did it." She exhaled. "I'm wound up. I'm . . . I'm
scared. Michael, for godsake, how many reasons am I supposed to need?"
"Hey, lighten up." He'd quit a month after they met, but it hadn't been
a big deal. "I've mellowed out from the old days. Life is like most
other things - a lot more fun when you don't take it too seriously."
They were moving across the empty parking lot, headed for the entrance
to the palace. It had once been a twelve-hundred-room labyrinth,
perhaps deliberately confusing. Now the upper courtyard and chambers
lay exposed to the sky, their massive red-and-ocher columns glistening
in the waning sunlight. The columns tapered downward, as though tree
trunks had been planted upside down to prevent resprouting.
It was a poetic place to meet Eva again, he thought. And thoroughly
bizarre as well. She'd gotten her Ph.D. in linguistics, specializing in
ancient Aegean languages, then a few months later she'd surprised
everybody by accepting a slot at the National Security Agency, that
sprawling electronic beehive of eavesdropping that lies midway between
Washington and Baltimore, on the thousand acres of Fort Meade. It'd
seemed a startling about-face at the time, but maybe it made sense.
Besides, it was that or teaching.
NSA was a midsized city, producing among other things forty tons of
classified paper trash a day. Its official insignia, appropriately, was
a fierce eagle clasping a key - whether to unlock the secrets of others
or to protect its own was unclear. Eva's particular branch, SIGINT - for
signals intelligence - was an operation so secret NSA refused even to
admit it existed. Employing ten acres of mainframe computers, Eva's
SIGINT group monitored and analyzed every Russian transmission
anywhere: their satellite downlinks, the microwave telephone networks
within the Soviet Union, the chatter of civilian and military pilots,
missile telemetry far above the Pacific, the split-second bursts of
submarines reporting to base, even the limousine radiophone trysts
between Politburo members and their mistresses. The instant an
electromagnetic pulse left the earth, no matter its form or frequency,
it belonged to the giant electronic ears of the NSA.
So why shouldn't Eva end up as the agency's top Russian codebreaker?
She was a master at deciphering obscure texts, and she'd spoken Russian
all her life. Who better to make a career of cracking secret Soviet
communications. Her linguistics Ph.D. was being used to real purpose.
"I want you to help me think some, love," she went on. "I know it may
sound a little bizarre, but I'd like to talk about some of the legends
surrounding this place. You know, try and sort out fact and fiction."
Now they were headed side by side down the stairway leading into the
central court, an expanse of sandstone and alabaster tile glinting
golden in the pale sun. On their left a flight of stairs seemed to lead
out, but in fact they led right back in again. The deceptions of the
palace began at the very entrance.
"The truth is, about all we have is stories, though sometimes stories
can be more true than so-called history. The standard version is that
this area was where the athletes performed ritual somersaults over the
The restored frescoes around them showed corridors crowded with lithe
Minoan priestesses, eyes rounded with green malachite, faces powdered
white, lips a blood red. They all were bare-breasted, wearing only
diaphanous chemises, while their jewels glistened in the sunshine as
they fanned themselves with ostrich plumes.
There were no frescoes, however, of the powerful, bloodthirsty King
"Michael," she called out, her voice echoing off the hard walls, "you
know, this place has always felt a little sinister to me. None of the
lightness and gaiety in those frescoes seems real."
"That's part of what made me start wondering if the Minoans hadn't
somehow managed to make a monkey out of every ponderous scholar on the
planet." They were moving down the monumental grand staircase, three
restored flights of which had originally been five, toward the rooms
called the royal chambers. "Maybe the reason this place had no walls or
fortifications was because you only came here when you were dead. Who
the hell knows."
Whatever the truth was, the eerie feeling of the palace seemed to make
the ancient stories even more vivid. The legends told that King Minos's
wife, Pasiphae, had a burning passion for one of the sacred white bulls
he kept, so she arranged for his chief architect, Daedalus, to design a
hollow wooden cow for her covered over with a hide. She concealed
herself inside and, as luck would have it, lured one of the beasts. The
progeny of that union was equally beastly - the Minotaur, a monster with
a human body and a bull's head.
Now they were rounding a final corner in the twisting maze of stairs.
Directly ahead was the boudoir of the queen. The past welled up for
The frescoes over the alabaster arches showed bold blue dolphins
pirouetting in a pastel sea dotted with starfish and sea urchins. And
just beneath them stood the famous bathroom of the queen, connected to
the vast drainage complex of the palace, great stone channels curved in
precise parabolas to control and dampen turbulence. Daedalus was an
engineer-architect who had mastered the science of fluid dynamics
thousands of years before the invention of wind tunnels and
"My favorite spot. The bedroom." He slipped the small bottle of ouzo
from his trench coat pocket. In the dank of the palace's lower depths,
he needed its warmth. "I've had unspeakably erotic thoughts about this
place - now it can be told - with you no small part of them." He handed her
the bottle. "Want a hit of high octane?"
"Glad to know I've had a place in your memory all these years, even if
it was X-rated." She took the bottle with a knowing smile, then drank.
"It's like licorice."
He laughed. "Blended with JP-7."
"Michael," she continued, looking around, "maybe this is the very room
where Pasiphae gave birth to the Minotaur. What do you suppose?"
"That would fit the story." He moved on, his eyes still adjusting to
the shadows. "The only thing the legends actually say is that King
Minos ordered Daedalus, resident genius, to create a secret labyrinth
in the cellar of the palace to keep the beast. But nobody's ever
"You know, I think the labyrinth was no myth. It was real, only it was
here. All around us. We're in it now." She handed back the bottle. "It
was this whole sinister palace, this realm of the dead. After all these
years, I finally think maybe you were right."
Vindicated at last? Had even Eva come around? But why didn't he feel
any satisfaction? Instead he found himself aware of the old chill, the
almost occult intuition that had first told him the palace wasn't the
happy playground everybody supposed it was. Once more it felt like
But now something else was entering his senses. Was it imagination? In
the encroaching dark the lower levels of the palace seemed to be
totally deserted, with only a couple of persistent German tourists
arguing out near the parking lot, and yet . . .
They weren't alone. He could feel it. He knew it. Was it the spirits of
No, it was far more real. Someone was with them, somewhere. In the
shadows. They were being watched.
He looked at Eva, trying to make out her eyes in the semidarkness. Did
she sense it too? That somebody was nearby, waiting, maybe listening?
"Darling, let's talk some more about the myth of Daedalus. In the
version I remember he - "
"Not much more to the tale. After a while a Greek prince called Theseus
arrived, to brave the labyrinth and do battle with the man-eating
Minotaur. When he showed up, King Minos's beautiful daughter, Ariadne,
instantly fell in love with him, naturally."
"I love myths. They're always so realistic."
"Well, he dumped her later, so I guess he did turn out to be a creep.
But anyway, she persuaded Daedalus to give him a ball of string. He
attached it to the door of the labyrinth and unwound it as he went in.
After he killed the beast, he followed the twine back out, and escaped.
With Ariadne. Unfortunately, when Minos discovered what had happened,
he was so mad he locked the great chief architect in a tower. But
Daedalus managed to get out, hoping to escape from the island. However,
it wasn't going to be easy, since Minos had clamped down on all the
harbors, having the ships searched. That's when Daedalus declared,
'Minos may control the land and the sea, but he doesn't control the
regions above.' And he constructed some wings, attached them to his
shoulders with wax, and soared away into space. First human ever. Up
till then, only the gods could just leave the earth anytime they
"What?" She'd stopped dead still.
"Daedalus. You remember. The first person to fly, mankind's ago-old
dream. In fact, a few years back some Americans duplicated the feat
with a human-powered glider. They made it from here on Crete over to
the island of - "
"No, you said 'space.' "
"Did I?" He smiled. "Call it poetic license. But why not? Back in those
days I guess the skies themselves could be considered outer space, if
they even knew such a thing existed." Then he looked at her and
sobered. "What's - ?"
"It's - it's just something that's been in the back of my mind." She
With a shrug, he took another drink of the ouzo and followed her on
down the hall toward the famous Throne Room. He was bracing himself now
for what was next.
Its walls were decorated with frescoes of the massive Minoan body
shields, shaped as a figure-eight, that signified the men's quarters of
Knossos. And incised in stone above King Minos's wide alabaster throne
was his fearsome emblem of authority, symbol of his domination of the
There it was. He looked around, reassuring himself that it was
everywhere, just as he'd remembered. He'd also been right about
something else. It was precisely the same, right down to the smooth
curves of the blade, as the "watermark" that had been on the sheet of
"paper" Alex had given him. Almost four thousand years old, it was the
insignia of the new Daedalus Corporation.
The Minoan double ax.
Wednesday 6:12 P.M.
The dusk was settling majestically over Tokyo, after a rare smogless
day. The view was particularly inspiring from the fifty-fifth-floor
penthouse of the granite-clad Mino Industries building. The corner
office was an earth-tone tan, carpeted in a thick wool shag the color
of elm bark. The heavy doors at the far end of the office were
emblazoned with a two-bladed ax, and in the center of the wide expanse
between the door and the single desk, on a gleaming steel pedestal,
stood a meter-long model of an airplane more advanced than any the
world had yet seen.
The temperature of the room was kept at a constant 59 degrees
Fahrenheit, a frigid comfort-accommodation for the tawny, eight-foot
snow leopard named Neko now resting on a pallet beside the window,
gazing down. Remnant of an endangered species, she'd been rescued as a
starving, motherless cub during an expedition in the Himalayas and
raised for the past six years as a pampered pet of the penthouse's
Along the sound-proof walls were gilt-framed photographs of a Japanese
executive jogging with Jimmy Carter in Tokyo, golfing with Ferdinand
Marcos in Manila, receiving an accolade from Linus Pauling in San
Francisco, dining with Henry Kissinger in Paris. He was the same man
now sitting behind the massive slate desk.
"You believe he was an American?" Tanzan Mino, president and CEO of the
Daedalus Corporation, a paper creation of the Mino Industries Group,
adjusted his pale silk tie and examined the subordinate now standing
before him. He had just turned seventy-three, but the energy in his
youthful frame made him seem at least a decade younger, perhaps two.
"_Hai_, Mino-sama." The other man, in a dark suit, bowed. "We have
reason to believe the Russian has . . . they were seen exchanging an
"And your people failed to intercept either of them?"
The man bowed again, more deeply. "An attempt was made, but
unfortunately the Soviet escaped, and the American . . . my people were
unsure what action to take. We do know the funds have not been
deposited as scheduled."
Tanzan Mino sighed and brushed at his silver temples. His dark eyes
seemed to penetrate whatever they settled upon, and the uncomfortable
vice-president now standing in front of him was receiving their full
Back in the old days, when he directed the Mino-gumi clan's operations
at street level, finger joints were severed for this kind of
incompetence. But now, now the organization had modernized; he operated
in a world beholden to computers and financial printouts. It was a new
age, one he secretly loathed.
He'd been worried from the start that difficulties might arise. The
idiocy of Japan's modern financial regulations had driven him to
launder the payoffs thoroughly. In the old days, when he was
Washington's man, controlling the Liberal Democratic Party, no meddling
tax agency would have dared audit any of his shadow companies. But
after a bastard maverick named Vance - with the CIA, no less! - had blown
the whistle on his and the Company's clandestine understanding . . .
He had arranged the initial financing for the project, as well as the
political accommodations, with letters of credit, promissory notes, and
his word. And, eventually, if need be, the full financing could be
raised by partial liquidation of his massive real estate holdings in
But the near-term expenses - and the necessary payoffs in the LDP - that
was different. In Japanese _kosaihi_, the "money politics" of gifts and
outright bribes, secrecy was everything. He remembered how he'd had to
arrange for the mighty Yoshio Kodama, a powerbroker who had once shared
his virtual ownership of the Japanese Diet and the Japanese press, to
accept responsibility for the CIA-Lockheed bribe affair. It was a close
call. That had involved a mere twelve million of American cash to
Japanese politicians, but it had changed the rules forever. These days -
particularly after the Recruit debacle had disgraced the LDP yet again -
money had to be laundered and totally untraceable.
Promises had been made, schedules signed off, the veil of total secrecy
kept intact. Everything was arranged. The Soviets, incompetents that
they were, had no inkling of the larger plan.
Now it all came down to the funds. He needed the money at once.
He turned in his chair, pressed a gray button on his desk,
and watched the window blinds disappear into their frame. Neko rose
from her languorous pose, stretched her spotted white fur, and gazed
down. This was the panoramic view she loved almost as much as he did,
for her perhaps it was the memory of a snowy Himalayan crest; for him
it was the sprawl of Tokyo, the elegant peak of Mount Fuji to the west,
the bustling port of Yokohama to the south. From this vantage atop the
powerful financial world of Japan, Tanzan Mino wanted two final
triumphs to crown his career. He wanted to see Japan become the twenty-
first century's leader in space, and he wanted his country finally to
realize its historic wartime objective: economic domination of the
continent of Asia, from Siberia to Malaysia, with freedom forever from
the specter of energy and resource dependence. The plan now in motion
would achieve both.
He revolved again in his chair, ignored the subordinate standing before
his desk, and studied the model. It was a perfect replica, one-
hundredth the actual size, of the spaceplane that would revolutionize
the future, the symbol that would soon signify his country's
transcendence in the high-tech age to come.
Then his gaze shifted.
"You were 'unsure what action to take'?" He leaned back, touching his
fingertips together, and sadness entered his voice. "You know, there
was a time when I thought Japan might still one day recapture the
spirit we have lost, the spirit of _bushido_. In centuries gone by, a
samurai never had to ask himself 'what action to take.' He acted intu-
itively. Instinctively. Do you understand?"
"_Hai, wakarimasu_." The man bowed stiffly.
"I am prepared to funnel trillions of yen into this project before it
is over. Legitimate, clean funds. So the sum now in question is almost
inconsequential. However, it is the bait we need to set the trap, and
it must be handled exactly as I have specified."
"_Hai_, Mino-sama." Again he bowed.
"The next time you stand before me, I want to hear that the laundered
Soviet funds have been deposited in the Shokin Gaigoku Bank as agreed.
You have one week." He slowly turned back to the window. "Now, must I
tell you what you have to do?" The man bowed low one last time. He knew
Wednesday 7:38 P.M.
"Michael! And Eva! Again, after so long. _Pos iste!_ What a surprise!"
The old Greek's sunburned face widened into a smile, his gray mustache
opening above his last good teeth. "_Parakalo_, you must come in for a
glass of _raki_ and some of Adriana's _meze_. She would never forgive
They'd dropped by the hotel, then come here. Although Zeno's small
taverna was in the center of _Iraklion_, its facade was still country
style, covered with an arbor. A bare electric bulb hung incongruously
in the middle of the porch, penetrating the dull glow of dusk now
settling over the square called Platia Eleftherias, where the evening's
_volta_ was just beginning. Once the chaste promenade of eligible young
women, it was now a deafening flock of motorscooters, with girls in
tight jeans riding on their backs. And the watchful mothers of old were
conspicuously absent. Times had indeed changed since his last time
"Zeno." Vance shook his hand, then accepted his warm embrace. As he was
driving, he'd been wondering what the old Greek would think about the
sudden reappearance of Eva. They hadn't been here together since that
last trip, well over a decade ago. "Still pouring the meanest _raki_ in
"But of course. Never that tequila you like, Michael." He chuckled with
genuine pleasure, recalling that Vance could down his high-potency
version of _ouzo_ like a native. "Ah, you know, Michael, your father
would never touch it. You, though . . ."