Prologue:

A
Pious Obsession

David Gerrity had lived with
eighty-five years of obsession.

He had been obsessed with
learning, which brought him into Harvard; history, which provided him
with his Ph.D.; and, later, a wide range of other subjects,
disciplining himself to no more than three or four obsessions at a
time.

His family was another
obsession. When he married, it was to a woman whose interests were as
wide-ranging as his, which allowed her to at least partially
understand what he was talking about. Between them they raised three
daughters and two sons, each of whom was hatched, then matched, then
finally dispatched from the home to do likewise.

His third permanent obsession
was his religion, primarily in its philosophical aspects. He had even
read the twelve shelf-feet of the fifty-volume Thomas Aquinas
philosophical opus
Summa
Theologica
during one
summer break.

His final obsession varied;
unlike many academics who knew one thing and wrote on the same topic
over and over, once he had exhausted a subject, it amused him to go
back to the student side of the desk. In that fashion, he earned his
second and third doctorates in sacred theology and in law. He had
made a modest fortune on his four-volume history,
Lies
Historians Tell
: From
Herodotus and Thucydides to Leni
Riefenstahl
and Michael Moore.

This revision of the revisionists armed a generation of smartass
high-schoolers and undergraduates to challenge their professors with
all the far-more-interesting facts the teachers left out of the
official version. Gerrity was thus superbly equipped by training,
talent, time and treasure to pursue his latest obsession.

His latest interest would become
his last.

The final obsession explained
the pile of books in Gerrity’s hotel room in Rome. He bellowed
"GOD FORSAKEN LIAR! SUFFER ETERNAL FREEZER BURN!!!" as he hurled
yet another volume with the force of a clay pigeon at a skeet shoot.
It smacked against a wall, the impact sounding like a gunshot.

In Gerrity’s mind, all of
these books had been flawed. He had done exhaustive research on the
records of the period, so he
knew
the authors had lied. He knew about what happened back then: the
backroom deals, the failed assassination attempts, the intrigue, and
the incompetent spy games they played, as well as all of the
successful ones. Research was made harder because boasting was not in
the nature of intelligence. He knew almost a dozen condemnations by
heart, as well as how the words were twisted. It had taken 50 years
to prove that Alger Hiss was an enemy agent, that the U.S.S.R. was a
paper tiger, that Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty…This would be done
also.

His new obsession was to correct
one simple point of history; to settle the matter once and for all.
There were few final victories, but to settle this for one generation
would be enough–two generations had been poisoned already.

He rolled out of bed, ignoring
his body’s screams of protest as his arthritis flared up once more.
The eighty-five-year-old had focused his attention on collecting
facts; pain could be attended to later, assuming he noticed it.

He grabbed his portable scanner
and plugged it into his laptop, wanting to read all he had collected
yesterday. When they allowed him into the library, he brought his
scanner, as he would not have been allowed to leave with any
documents–an official policy he disliked, but one that seemed to
follow him everywhere he went. Technically, he wasn’t allowed to
scan anything either, but he cheated. He had scanned each piece of
paper so he could read them later, saving his eyesight and time in
the vault. It had been a very well-lit vault, but he didn’t like
being locked in.

The day before, he had
accidentally rammed his head against a top shelf. The shelf came
loose and nearly decapitated him. Inside the shelf was a narrow,
hollowed-out slit, where he had spotted one more piece of paper. It
had been properly preserved, like the other documents, but who put
papers inside of a shelf, not on it? Like every other document, he
had scanned it, put it back in its proper place, replaced the shelf,
and then forgot about it until now.

That image was the last one he
had scanned, and the first one he looked at now.

Gerrity’s eyes widened and he
stood, suddenly knocking the chair backwards. If this were true, he
was going to have to change everything; the title of the book, the
premise, even his own beliefs.

Damn it, everything’s gone
to Hell
.

Gerrity whirled, headed for the
door, intent on demanding to be let back into the vault, going back
for the original paper. If this was correct, and if he could find
data to support this, he would bring down an entire institution with
what he knew. He would grind it under his feet, burn it and scatter
the ashes, and every last member. He was going to metaphorically
kill them all, show them for what they really were. He hadn’t
exactly intended on doing it when he had arrived, but now, he would
have no choice.

Gerrity worked the locks and
wrenched open the door. Standing on the other side was someone from
room service, pushing a full dinner cart.

"Io ho anche!"
he shouted.
I’ve
got something!

The bellman blinked, and raised
the water bottle in his right hand. David looked down and saw that
the mouth of the empty water bottle had been taped to something else.
A gun.

Room service fired one bullet
into Gerrity’s stomach at an upward angle, letting the .22-caliber
round ricochet off of the back of his ribcage, into the breastbone,
finally lodging in the knotted muscles of his left shoulder. Gerrity
staggered back and was shot again, this time under the chin; this
bullet did the job, bouncing off of the back of his skull, through
the frontal lobe, ricocheted a final time, to finally embed itself in
the top of the spinal column. Gerrity landed with a light
thump.

Giacomo dragged the cart into
Gerrity’s hotel room and closed the door, heading directly for the
laptop. His improvised silencer would be good for at least one more
shot. He raised his gun to finish the job. He had been instructed
not to read anything Gerrity had left behind, just destroy it.

Clementi disobeyed, having
caught part of one sentence, and then again, and again…Clementi
stopped and stared at the screen. The information in front of him
was impossible. Perfectly, absolutely, utterly
impossible.
He could not believe some of the names on that screen. He could not
believe the events it described. And he could not make another move
without passing the information along.

Clementi whipped out his cell
phone and hit redial so he could immediately contact his superior.

"Is it done?"

"Gerrity’s dead, but the
evidence–you must read it. We can’t work for him anymore. Do you
know who he is? What he is?"

"Yes, I do," his superior
answered.

A moment later, three sticks of
dynamite underneath the dining cart exploded. The concussive wave
slammed into Clementi like a giant smacking him with sheet metal.
The concussion wave sent the computer across the room, and the
assassin out the window, smashing apart all of the glass, shattering
both legs against the frame as he fell to his death on top of a car
below.

*

Several blocks away, the
assassin’s superior officer, and his murderer, calmly strode out of
the cafe onto
Via
Ottaviano
, tucking
his cell phone into an inside pocket. He looked out and smiled on
the day, glancing over the columns of the Vatican. Rome was rather
pretty at this time of year.

"Excuse me!"

He turned, and smiled at an
approaching mother and infant. "Yes?"

"Father, would you bless my
baby?"

*

Manana Shushurin was covered
with sweat, and half-regretted wearing the T-shirt. The material on
this one was definitely too thin. She gently slid the barbell back
onto the rack, then swung her long legs over the side. It took three
hours to get this much sweat accumulated, and she had barely noticed.
She had slept from five p.m.–when everyone had left work–to nine
p.m., and had gone down to the gym.

But it was time to go back to
work, whether she liked it or not.

After the showers, she slipped
into simple gray pants and a white blouse, then she headed back to
her office. She smiled as she looked around the room. Officially,
she lived with her mother. Unofficially, when she wasn’t in the
field, she was in her office, sleeping when she needed to, and no
more. There were few things in her office that gave a hint that she
lived there–her closet (filled with clothing), a bookcase (filled
with unofficial reading material), and the DVD/VHS player on her lamp
table. All her other clothing and impedimenta were in storage.

Shushurin sighed. Yes,
that should be depressing, shouldn’t it?

She dated, but not often. She
had degrees in political science, philosophy and history, and men
only noticed her body. She stared down at her well-developed chest,
cursing mildly. At least her build was useful when she was sent into
the field.

She looked down at the paperwork
on her desk, and sighed as she grabbed a chair. She gazed from pile
to pile, trying to figure out where to begin.

Working for German foreign
intelligence, the
Bundesnachrichtendienst
(BND),
had some perks, like the workout room. Her office was tucked in the
back end of the building, but was still as crowded as any cubicle.
Her job was to sort through intelligence reports for the Israelis. As
irony would have it, the BND gave a great deal of information to the
Mossad. But some members of her own service thought the creation of
Israel had stolen from Ahmed to give to Avram, and hence disliked
giving Mossad intel. So, for doing her job to the fullest of her
abilities, she was seen as "supporting Israel," and she had been
tucked into the back end of nowhere. Fortunately, she was too good
to be tied to a desk for any length of time. She could lie, cheat and
steal with the best, as evidenced by her generosity every poker
night. After she cleaned everyone out, she ended the game by sharing
her winnings with the pigeons she called colleagues.

Manana Shushurin flipped a
mental coin. Then, she picked up the latest folder out of Rome, and
after she scanned the first three lines, her eyes lit up. This was
something she needed to pass on immediately.

The phone rang. She answered.
The caller told her, "You’re going to Italy."