IT WAS DUSK when Eli Lavon telephoned Gabriel’s hotel room. Anna stirred, then drifted back into an uneasy sleep. During the afternoon, she had kicked away her blankets, and her body lay exposed to the cold air seeping through the half-open window. Gabriel covered her and went downstairs. Lavon was sitting in the parlor, drinking coffee. He poured some for Gabriel and handed him the cup.
“I saw your friend Emil Jacobi on the television today,” Lavon said. “Seems someone walked into his apartment in Lyons and slashed his throat.”
“I know. What did you hear from New York?”
“It’s believed that between 1941 and 1944, Augustus Rolfe acquired a large number of Impressionist and Modern paintings from galleries in Lucerne and Zurich -paintings that a few years before had hung in Jewish-owned galleries and homes in Paris.”
“What a surprise,” Gabriel murmured. “A large number? How many?”
“He purchased them?”
“Not exactly. It’s thought that the paintings acquired by Rolfe were part of several large exchanges carried out in Switzerland by agents of Hermann G?ring.”
Gabriel remembered things Julian Isherwood had told him about the ravenous collecting habits of the Reichsmarschall. G?ring had enjoyed unfettered access to the Jeu de Paume, where the confiscated art of France was stored. He had taken possession of hundreds of Modern works to use as barter for the Old Masters works he preferred.
“It’s rumored that Rolfe was allowed to purchase the paintings for only a nominal sum,” Lavon said. “Something far below their fair value.”
“So if that were the case, the acquisitions would have been entirely legal under Swiss law. Rolfe could say that he purchased them in good faith. And even if the paintings were stolen property, he would be under no legal obligation to return them.”
“So it would appear. The question we should be asking is this: Why was Augustus Rolfe allowed to buy paintings that passed through the hands of Hermann G?ring at bargain-basement prices?”
“Does your friend in New York have an answer to that question?”
“No, but you do.”
“What are you talking about, Eli?”
“The photographs and the bank documents you found in his desk. His relationship with Walter Schellenberg. The Rolfe family collected for generations. Rolfe was well connected. He knew what was going on across the border in France, and he wanted a piece of the action.”
“And Walter Schellenberg needed some way to compensate his private banker in Zurich.”
“Indeed,” Lavon said. “Payment for services rendered.”
Gabriel sat back in his chair and closed his eyes.
“What next, Gabriel?”
“It’s time to have a conversation I’ve been dreading.”
WHEN Gabriel went back upstairs to the room, Anna was beginning to awaken. He shook her shoulder gently, and she sat up with a start, like a child confused by strange surroundings. She asked for the time, and he told her it was early evening.
When she was fully conscious, he pulled a chair to the end of the bed and sat down. He left the lights off; he had no wish to see her face. She sat upright, her legs crossed, her shoulders wrapped in bedding. She was staring at him-even in the darkness, Gabriel could see her eyes locked on him.
He told her about the origins of her father’s secret collection. He told her the things he had learned from Emil Jacobi and that the professor had been killed the previous night in his apartment in Lyons. Finally, he told her about the documents he had found in her father’s desk-the documents linking him to Hitler’s spymaster, Walter Schellenberg.
When he was finished, he laid the photographs on the bed and went into the bathroom to give her a moment of privacy. He heard the click of the bedside lamp and saw light seeping beneath the bathroom door. He ran water in the sink and counted slowly in his head. When an appropriate amount of time had passed, he went back into the bedroom. He found her coiled into a ball, her body silently convulsing, her hand clutching the photograph of her father, admiring the view at Berchtesgaden with Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler.
Gabriel pulled it from her grasp before she could destroy it. Then he placed his hand on her head and stroked her hair. Anna’s weeping finally became audible. She choked and began to cough, a heavy smoker’s cough that left her gasping for breath.
Finally, she looked up at Gabriel. “If my mother ever saw that
But Gabriel pressed the palm of his hand against her lips before she could utter the words. He didn’t want her to say the rest. There was no need. If her mother had seen that picture, she would have killed herself, he thought. She would have dug her own grave, put a gun into her mouth, and killed herself.
THIS time it was Anna’s turn to retreat into the bathroom. When she returned she was calm, but her eyes were raw, and her skin was without color. She sat at the end of the bed with the photographs and documents in her hand. “What’s this?”
“It looks like a list of numbered accounts.”
“Whose numbered accounts?”
“The names are German. We can only guess at who they really are.”
She studied the list carefully, brow furrowed.
“My mother was born on Christmas Day, 1933. Did I ever tell you that?”
“Your mother’s birth date has never come up between us, Anna. Why is it relevant now?”
She handed him the list. “Look at the last name on the list.”
Gabriel took it from her. His eyes settled on the final name and number:
He looked up. “So?”
“Isn’t it interesting that a man with the same initials as my father has an account number in which the first six digits match my mother’s birthday?”
Gabriel looked at the list again:
He lowered the paper and looked at Anna. “What about the last three numbers? Do they mean anything to you?”
“I’m afraid they don’t.”
Gabriel looked at the numbers and closed his eyes.
Then, after a moment, the place where he had seen the number 126.
ANNA carried a picture of her brother always. It was the last photo ever taken of him-leading a stage of the Tour of Switzerland the afternoon of his death. Gabriel had seen the same photograph in the desk of Augustus Rolfe. He looked at the number attached to the frame of the bicycle and the back of his jersey:
Anna said, “It looks like we’re going back to Zurich.”
“We have to do something about your passport. And your appearance.”
“What’s wrong with my passport?”
“It has your name in it.”
“And my appearance?”
“Absolutely nothing. That’s the problem.”
He picked up the telephone and dialed.
THE girl called Hannah Landau came to the hotel room at ten o’clock that night. She wore bangles on her wrists and smelled of jasmine. The case hanging from her arm was not unlike the one Gabriel used for his paintbrushes and pigments. She spoke to Gabriel for a moment, then drew Anna into the bathroom by the hand and closed the door.
One hour later, Anna emerged. Her shoulder-length blond hair had been cropped short and dyed black; her green eyes had been turned blue by cosmetic lenses. The transformation was truly remarkable. It was as though she were another woman.
“Do you approve?” Hannah Landau asked.
“Take the picture.”
The Israeli girl snapped a half-dozen photographs of Anna with a Polaroid camera and laid the prints on the bed for Gabriel to see. When they had finished developing, Gabriel said, “That one.”
Hannah shook her head. “No, I think that one.”
She snatched up the picture without waiting for Gabriel’s approval and returned to the bathroom. Anna sat down at the vanity and spent a long time examining her appearance in the mirror.
Twenty minutes later, Hannah came out. She showed her work to Gabriel, then walked across the room and dropped it on the vanity in front of Anna. “Congratulations, Miss Rolfe. You are now a citizen of Austria.”