Fifty-three

Antrim, with Gary, approached the warehouse. Outside seemed quiet, the district crammed with storage facilities, which was one reason he’d chosen the locale. Even so, he approached the main door with caution and eased it open. Inside was still lit, the tables with artifacts unaffected, but the bookstore owner and Ian Dunne were nowhere to be seen.

“Where are they?” Gary asked.

He heard the concern. “I told them to stay here. Check the bathroom.”

Gary ran around the walls that formed the interior office, and Antrim heard the metal door open.

The boy reappeared and shook his head. “Not there.”

The other exit door, on the far side, remained closed, secured by a digital lock. Where had they gone? Had someone taken them? No matter. Their being gone saved him the trouble of ditching them. He entered the office and spotted his cell phone on the metal desk.

How did it get there?

Then he realized.

When Ian Dunne bumped into him. The little delinquent picked his pocket.

It was the only explanation that made sense.

He snatched up the unit and saw only one email. From the man who was hacking into Farrow Curry’s hard drive. He read the short message, which offered success and the password-protected file, deciphered, attached.

He quickly opened it and scanned the text.

“What is it?” Gary asked.

He kept reading, then said, “Something I was waiting for.”

He made another decision. What had, at first, seemed a good idea was now becoming a problem. There were things he needed to do himself. Screw the Daedalus Society. He already possessed half of what they owed him and that would be enough. From the little he’d just read from Robert Cecil’s journal, there may be more to this than he’d ever believed. Those Irish lawyers from forty years ago were onto something that could be worth a hundred times more than five million pounds. He recalled how excited Farrow Curry was that day, and the source of that anticipation might lie within Cecil’s journal, which he needed to carefully read.

None of which could be done with Gary Malone underfoot.

He’d been childless all of his adult life. Maybe he should keep it that way. He was going to have to disappear, escape both Daedalus and the CIA. That could prove next to impossible with a young boy around. Especially one whose mother hated him and whose father was an ex-agent with an attitude.

Malone had escaped Daedalus.

It was unlikely that there would be other opportunities to take him out.

Time to get the hell out of here.

But what was he to do with Gary?

First, secure the email. It had been sent to the account he’d provided the analyst. His more secure locations he kept to himself. So he forwarded the message and attachment to an address where it would be safe behind multiple firewalls, then deleted it from the phone.

“We need to find Miss Mary and Ian,” Gary said.

He ignored the boy and kept thinking.

“Can I use that phone to call my dad?” Gary asked.

He was about to say no, but a rumbling from outside caught his attention. Car engines. Switching off. Then doors opening and closing. He whirled toward the lone window in the outer wall and spotted two vehicles.

Two men exited the lead car.

The same faces from the Tower.

Denise emerged from the other.

All carried pistols.

He darted to the desk and yanked open the drawer. No weapon. Then he remembered. He’d taken it last night and left it in his hotel room. Why would he have needed it today? This morning he’d thought this a day of cleanup, nothing more. Then off to enjoy his money and kindle a relationship with his son, rubbing it all in the face of Pam Malone.

But none of that mattered anymore.

Except the money part.

To enjoy that, though, he had to escape the warehouse in one piece.

Then it hit him.

“Come on,” he said to Gary.

They ran from the office and across the interior, toward the tables and artifacts. He assumed that before Denise and her entourage plunged ahead, they’d scope out the landscape.

Which should buy him a few moments.

He spotted the plastic container resting on the concrete and lifted it onto a table. He snapped off the lid to expose eight clumps of pale gray clay, the remainder of the percussion explosives, the same substance used to violate Henry VII’s grave inside Windsor.

Nasty stuff.

Tricky, too.

Eight detonators lay inside. He pressed one each into four of the clumps and activated them. He snatched up a small remote, his thumb resting atop its single button. He stuffed the remaining four packets and detonators into a knapsack from one of the tables. Before popping the lid back on, he tossed the cell phone inside. No need for it any longer.

He pointed behind them. “That door across there is bolted from the inside with a digital lock. Go open it. 35. 7. 46.”

Gary nodded and ran off.

He retrieved Cecil’s journal from beneath its glass dome and slipped it into the knapsack.

The main door to the warehouse burst open.

Denise led the way in with the two men, guns drawn. Antrim shouldered the knapsack and ran toward where Gary stood, at the other door, nearly a hundred feet away.

“Stop,” he heard Denise yell.

He kept moving.

A bang.

One round zinged off the concrete near his right foot.

He froze.

Denise and the two men stood across the warehouse, each with their pistols aimed. He was careful, palming the detonator in his right hand, hidden by his cuffed fingers, thumb still on the button.

Get the door open, he mouthed to Gary, before turning around.

“Hands up,” one of the men said. “Keep them where we can see them.”

He slowly raised his arms, but kept his right hand facing away, four fingers open, thumb holding the controller in place.

“Your computer analyst told us he sent you what Farrow Curry deciphered,” Denise called out.

“He did. But I didn’t get a chance to read it before you showed up.”

She approached the tables and admired the stolen books and papers.

“A five-hundred-year-old secret,” she said. “And these are the keys to its unraveling.”

He hated the smug look on her face. She thought herself so clever. So in charge. Her rebukes of him, both in Brussels and at the Tower, still stung. He hated everything about cocky women, especially that arrogance bred from good looks, wealth, confidence, and power. Denise possessed at least three of those, and knew it.

She approached the empty glass lid. “Where is Robert Cecil’s journal?”

“It’s gone.”

She’d yet to pay any attention to the plastic container.

“Not good, Blake.”

“Do you know what it says?” he asked her.

“Oh, yes. Your man talked freely. He was almost too easy to persuade. We have the copies of the hard drives and the entire translation.”

The two other men stood behind her, now closer to the tables, their guns still aimed. He kept his arms raised, hands still. Percussion explosives were state of the art. Lots of heat, a manageable concussion, and minimum noise. Their effect came from high temperatures directed at a targeted focal point, which could do far more damage to certain surfaces.

Like stone.

Where intense heat weakened its structure.

Here was a no-brainer.

Lots of paper, plastic, glass, and flesh.

“We need that journal, Blake.”

He was a good fifty feet away.

Which should be enough.

“Rot in hell, Denise.”

His thumb pressed the button.

He dove back, toward Gary, pounding the concrete and covering his head.

* * *

Gary had easily spotted Antrim holding the controller with his right hand, concealed from the three people across the warehouse. He’d wondered what the clumps of clay could do.

Now he saw.

Antrim dove to the floor just as a bright flash erupted from the tables and a swoosh of intense heat surged his way. He’d managed to release the lock before the three had corralled Antrim, the door slightly ajar. Now he fell outside, the door banging against the warehouse’s exterior wall, his body slapping the pavement. Heat rushed past him and sought the sky. He stared back through the open doorway. The flash was gone. But the tables were charred and everything on them annihilated. The woman and two men lay on the warehouse floor, their smoking bodies black.

He’d never seen anything like it before.

* * *

Antrim rose.

He’d been just far enough away to escape the carnage, the heat intense but lasting only a few seconds.

Denise and her cohorts lay dead.

Good riddance.

Everything was reduced to ash. Only the stone tablet remained, lying on the floor, charred and of no use.

Screw the Daedalus Society.

Three dead operatives just about made them even.

He shouldered the bag and hustled out the door to find Gary lying on the concrete.

“You okay?” he asked.

The boy nodded.

“Sorry you had to see that. But it had to be done.”

Gary stood.

There could be more trouble nearby, so he said, “We have to get out of here.”

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