CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-TWO
Monday early morning — 3:21 a.m.
Acting “Sergeant” Alex Hargreaves sat at the battered circa 1940s Formica table in the kitchen of the farmhouse they’d rented in Southern Poland. She had a yellow lead pencil in her hand and a white lined pad in front of her. She’d been sitting there, tapping the eraser end of her pencil on the pad, for nearly an hour. Her eyes were focused on the winter emptied farmland that lay beyond the window in front of her, but her mind was miles away.
Feeling movement, she looked up. Her partner, Arthur “Raz” Rasmussen, came toward her through the kitchen. She smiled at him.
“I was looking for you,” he said.
“Sorry,” Alex said. “Just had to think some things through.”
He took in the pad of paper, the tapping pencil, and the vague look on her face.
“I’ll make coffee,” he said.
She squinted at him as if she was trying to understand what he’d said. She nodded and went back to staring out the window. Some minutes later, a cup appeared near her right hand. Raz sat down on her left. He slid the pad over to him, and she took a drink of her coffee.
“Leena, Vince, Troy, Margaret, Matthew, Joseph, Zack, Cliff, Dusty, Royce,” he read. He raised his eyebrows and continued, “Old guy contingent — Seth, Bernie, Ben, Patrick, and Pierre.”
He set the pad down.
“Pierre?” Raz asked.
“You remember Nelson Weeks?” Alex said.
“I do,” Raz said.
“Seems his father is now the head of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Soloman,” Alex said.
“The Knights Templar,” Raz said. “How did he get that honor?”
“Born into it,” Alex said. “His family is or was the weapons master. Nelson’s mom is the heir apparent. Since she’s dead, it falls to Pierre.”
“Nelson’s mom was heir apparent to an ancient order who’s members are supposedly all killed in the 13th century,” Raz said, his voice laced with disbelief.
“And Pierre?” Raz asked. “Is this something he’s always been or did it just happen?”
“He got this ‘honor’ when most of the order was killed in Arizona,” Alex said. “He’s the last ranking member alive.”
“You think that was intentional?” Raz asked before taking a long drink of his coffee.
Alex waited for him to finish his drink before saying, “No.”
“Why is he coming?” Raz asked.
“Turns out he’s kind of an expert on historic art, swords, and that kind of thing,” Alex said.
“You think the Templars have a claim in the mine?” Raz ask.
“Who knows?” Alex said.
She glanced at him and downed her coffee. She got up from her seat. She filled two water glasses and set one down in front of him. He drank it down. He nodded to her, and she drank her water. The team had a new initiative to become better hydrated. He gave her a soft smiled, and she grinned.
“What’s bothering you?” he asked.
“You know, I have just that same question,” Alex said.
“You don’t know?” he asked, his voice rising with concern.
Alex shook her head.
“That’s not good,” he said.
“Exactly,” Alex said.
“Walk me through it,” Raz said. “We’re going to head to the mine today and …”
“Right,” Alex said. “That’s exactly it. We’re going to an old mine. We’re soldiers. We have gear and are easily able to defend ourselves. We have permission from the Polish government and the head of this region.”
“We checked in with the police yesterday,” Raz said.
“Every single thing is above board,” Raz said.
“Right,” Alex said. “So what possibly could be bothering me?”
Raz’s eyes flicked to her face.
“No idea,” Alex said.
“Is it animal?” Raz asked.
Alex shook her head.
“Mineral?” Raz asked.
“Human,” Alex said. “There’s something about this project that …”
“I was going to say that there’s something about this project that’s not right,” Alex said. “But what could be wrong? We have property rights. Hell, we have a key!”
“Okay,” Raz said. “Try this — Are we in danger?”
Alex didn’t respond.
“Physical injury?” he asked. She paused for a moment before shaking her head.
“Disease?” he asked. She shook her head.
“Ideological?” he asked. She shook her head.
“Mental illness?” he asked. She shook her head.
“The only one you paused on was physical injury,” Raz said. “You think there will be …”
“I don’t know,” Alex said.
“Brainstorm with me,” Raz said.
“Booby traps,” Alex said. “That’s a no brainer. But we have Dusty who does all of those Spartan races. He’ll see a booby trap mile away.”
“You have a particularly good eye for that kind of thing,” Raz said.
Alex scowled in agreement.
“What else?” Raz asked.
Sighing, Alex went back to tapping her pencil against the table. Raz had nearly given up on her saying anything else when she looked at him.
“It’s my father, Seth and his father, Ben,” Alex said.
“And Pierre?” Raz asked.
“What about them?” Raz asked.
“It just seems like …” Alex said. She stopped talking for a moment and then drew a deep breath. “There’s something about this that my father and Bernie’s father aren’t telling us. Pierre.”
“Something?” Raz asked.
“No idea,” Alex said with a shake of her head.
“And it could put us in danger?” Raz asked.
“Then we get them up,” Raz said. He rose from the table. “Right now.”
“Wha …?” Alex started.
“I won’t have your life endangered by secrets,” Raz said. “I won’t tolerate mine endangered by secrets.”
“I will protect you,” Alex said.
“That may be true, but why should you have to?” Raz asked.
“Where there’s that,” Alex said with a sigh.
“They chose to come on this trip,” Raz said. “They aren’t here because it’s their team. They are here by choice. They need to tell us what they know.”
“They get up now,” Alex said with a nod.
There was a tap on the kitchen door. Raz turned to see Pierre Semaines standing outside the door.
“I apologize,” Pierre said in French. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop I was just …”
“It’s okay,” Alex replied in French.
Pierre heard her words and looked puzzled. It took him a moment to realize that he’d spoken in French. He looked at Raz, who was looking at Alex.
“We can take you to your room,” Alex said, continuing in French. “We just have to …”
“Wake Patrick and Bernie,” Pierre said with a nod. “Yes, that is what I heard. I’m afraid that I need to be a part of that conversation.”
Alex and Raz became very still as they turned to look at him.
“We are three parts to one puzzle,” Pierre said. “I hold a piece. They each hold a piece.”
When neither Alex nor Raz said anything, Pierre nodded.
“I doubt they know that,” Pierre said. “But my guess is that they do know that their information will bring about peril to everyone. That is likely why they are here.”
“And Seth?” Raz asked.
“Seth O’Malley knows things. No one knows if he’s psychic or if Delphie keeps him informed,” Pierre said with a shrug. “He knows an incredible number of people who know to call with information. That’s just as likely as anything else. There are stories about him and Mitch from Vietnam.”
“And you know those because …” Alex said, mildly.
“Michael Scully used to talk about him,” Pierre said with a nod.
“MJ’s father,” Alex said to Raz. “They lived next door to each other before …”
Raz nodded. He smiled at her attempt at not saying, “Everyone died.”
“It is also likely that he knows his father has some information,” Pierre said. “He’s here to keep an eye on Bernie.”
“Let’s get them up,” Alex said.
Raz nodded in agreement.
“Sir, why don’t we move you to the living room?” Raz asked.
Raz picked up Pierre’s bag and indicated for Pierre to move through the kitchen. Raz caught Alex’s eye as he led Pierre into the living room. She smiled her thanks, and he nodded.
She took the back stairs up to the second floor of the house. She tapped on the door where Leena and Vince were staying. Leena answered the door.
“Can you wake Vince?” Alex asked.
“Has something happened?” Leena asked.
“We need some information from my father and Bernie,” Alex said.
“Good,” Leena said. “Can I help?”
“I need to wake everyone,” Alex said.
“I’ll get Vince and the rest of the team,” Leena said.
“I’ll focus on the old guys,” Alex said.
“Deal,” Leena said with a wide smile.
Alex gave her a quick nod and went to wake her father.
Sunday evening — 7:56 p.m.
“So what are you going to do?” Tanesha asked Jeraine.
She held out his travel bag and he took it. They were standing in the entryway of their apartment.
“I’m going to fly to Las Vegas,” Jeraine said. “I’m going to go from the airport to that apartment you rented for me.”
“And?” Tanesha asked.
His face completely blank, Jeraine looked at her. Tanesha shook her head.
“I should go with you,” Tanesha said. “You’re not up to this today.”
“No,” Jeraine said. “No. I can do it.”
Tanesha shook her head.
“You have school,” Jeraine said. “This is my stuff, my work. I can do this.”
“Okay, then,” Tanesha said. She smiled to encourage him. “What’s next?”
“I wait for Jammy,” Jeraine said. “I’m just not sure what I’ll do while I wait.”
“Read,” Tanesha said. “Rest.”
“Call you?” Jeraine asked.
“Of course,” Tanesha said with a smile. “It’s always nice to talk to you.”
Jeraine looked instantly relieved.
“You’re just going to Las Vegas to check out this claim that your contract has been destroyed,” Tanesha said. “When you meet Jammy, what will you do?”
“He might be there when I get there,” Jeraine said. “He has the address?”
“He does,” Tanesha said. “What are you and Jammy going to do?”
“We’re going to the…” Jeraine looked vague.
“You’ll go meet with Jeanie,” Tanesha said. “At the casino.”
“What if Hecate shows up?” Jeraine asked.
“What if she does?” Tanesha asked. “She seems to be quite fond of you.”
Jeraine gave Tanesha a worried nod.
“What?” Tanesha asked.
“I’ve read that she’s … well, maybe not so good,” Jeraine said. “You know she’s that Perses’s daughter.”
“So is Jill,” Tanesha said.
“He gives me the creeps,” Jeraine said.
“He gives me the creeps too,” Tanesha said.
“Oh,” Jeraine said. “I forgot.”
“About?” Tanesha asked.
“That Perses is our Jill’s father, too,” Jeraine said.
“Easy to forget,” Tanesha said. “She lived with her step-father when we were kids.”
“And anyway, aren’t we all a little not so good?” Tanesha lifted a shoulder in a shrug. “Hecate’s been a good friend to you and to me.”
“Okay,” Jeraine said. “Do you think we’ll iron this out?”
“I do,” Tanesha said.
“Now, you’ll talk to Jeanie,” Tanesha said. “And then you and Jammy will go talk to Jammy’s friend and everything will get started.”
She put her hands on his shoulders.
“You should be happy,” Tanesha said. “Things are working out.”
“That’s what worries me,” Jeraine said.
“What do you mean?” Tanesha asked.
“When do things work out for me?” Jeraine asked.
Tanesha gave him a sideways look. She pointedly looked around the room.
He gave an embarrassed laugh.
“I get your point,” Jeraine said. “But that’s really about you. I hang on to you and things work out.”
He pulled her close.
“You’re my lucky charm,” he said.
She kissed him and then opened the door to their apartment. They walked hand in hand up the stairs to the main Castle living room where Jabari was playing with his friends.
“Bye-bye, Daddy!” said Jabari as he ran to Jeraine.
Jeraine picked up the child. They held each other close. Jabari kissed his father on the lips, and Jeraine put him down.
“Come home soon!” Jabari said.
“I will, son,” Jeraine said.
Tanesha held out her hand, and Jabari took it. They walked Jeraine to the door. He nodded to Tanesha. She gave him a soft smile before he headed out into the world. While they watched, he walked across the driveway, through the gate, and out to the street where he got into a cab.
Tanesha and Jabari waved to him, and he waved back. The cab drove away.
Jabari ran back to his friends when Tanesha shut the side door. Heather walked over to Tanesha.
“How are you?” Heather asked.
“Worried,” Tanesha said. “He seems so out of it today.”
“Just a lot to deal with,” Heather said.
Tanesha nodded. They walked together toward the stairs to the basement.
“I should study,” Tanesha said.
Heather nodded. Tanesha jogged down the stairs and back to their little apartment. When the door closed, she sighed.
It wasn’t easy to build a life here while her heart was on the road to Las Vegas.
She didn’t have time to deal with that. Nodding to herself, she forced herself to open her books and start studying.
Monday early morning — 4:01 a.m.
“That’s how we ended up with the journal,” Bernie said. His voice was defensive and hard. “I’ve told you this story.”
“You have,” Alex said. “And you’re not answering the question.”
“Which is?” Bernie asked.
“Why?” Alex asked. “Why did you pursue this journal? Why do you own it now? Why are we here?”
“I’ve told you that. Weren’t you listening?” Bernie asked. “I was approached at the gym and …”
“Come on, Bernie,” Seth said. “Even I don’t buy that story. Why should they?”
Bernie turned to look at his son. He saw Patrick Hargreaves shaking his head with disgust at Bernie. They were sitting in the living room area. The Fey Team, still dressed in their bed clothing, were sitting around the room. Bernie, Seth, Ben, and Patrick Hargreaves were near the center of the room with Alex and Raz.
“Have you ever been to Łodź?” US Air Force Sergeant Clifford Mauer asked.
Bernie turned to look at the young pilot they called “the Kid.”
“The children’s camp?” Patrick Hargreaves asked.
“I have,” Bernie said cautiously.
“I wanted to know because my grandfather spent much of his childhood there,” Cliff said. “That’s why I’m here. I want to see …” The young man shook his head. “Everything. For myself. We’re talking about having kids someday and I …”
Rather than finish, Cliff simply nodded. Cliff’s words seemed to affect Bernie deeply. The elderly man looked down at the ground.
“Sir?” Cliff asked Patrick Hargreaves. “Will you tell us why you are interested in this particular tunnel?”
Patrick blinked at Cliff.
“I believe that Mammy sent you and your wife an invitation to our wedding,” Cliff said.
Patrick looked surprised. His eyebrows went up and down for a moment.
“He’s marrying their daughter,” Alex said.
Patrick’s eyes shifted to Alex. He scowled and opened his mouth.
“This is not a trick,” Alex said. “They’ve been dating for a long time. Her mother knew but they kept it from her father. You know how he dotes on her.”
“If you’re looking for confirmation …” Seth started.
Patrick’s scowl shifted to Seth.
“I can tell you that this is a fact,” Seth said. “She sings in New York. Stays with Claire. I recently played backup for her at her Yale graduation. The kids have asked me to play for their wedding.”
Patrick didn’t respond to Seth. The silence grew.
“You are right,” Bernie said, breaking the silence. “The world has changed. These old secrets don’t mean anything to anyone.”
Everyone in the room looked at Bernie.
“I will tell you what I know,” Bernie said. “But don’t expect me to apologize for …”
“No one is asking you to feel sorry for doing your duty,” Alex said. She nodded to her father. “Yours either.”
She looked at Benjamin.
“Ben?” Alex asked.
“I honestly don’t think I know anything that would help with this,” Ben said.
“What if I think you know something that would help with this?” Alex asked.
Sitting on the couch, Ben looked up at her.
“And I think that whatever the three of you know could get us killed tomorrow,” Alex said.
The older men began to bluster and protest, but Seth simply looked at her.
“Why?” Seth asked over the older men’s protestations.
“Feeling,” Alex said. “And I’ve felt this way before. It never ends well.”
Bernie, Ben, and Patrick stopped talking. They looked at Alex.
“Now out with it,” Alex said.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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