Gunther monitored security's response over his headphones.
"Roger that. Over and out," Kellogg said.
Gunther yelled a bit. "We've been given the all clear. Here we go."
He nosed the helicopter forward and sped toward the estate. Ahead, the mansion came into view. It looked even more massive from the air.
Swinging around and settling into his seat, Monk faced Lisa. Beside her, Anna leaned against the window, eyes squeezed closed in pain. Painter hung in his straps and groaned. The sedative was wearing thin.
Lisa helped settle him back.
Monk noted that she held Painter's hand—and had all along.
Her face found Monk's.
Fear shone bright in her eyes.
But not for herself.
"Is the broadcast rod raised?" Baldric asked.
Isaak nodded at his console.
"Ready the Bell for activation."
Baldric turned to Gray. "We've fed your companions' DNA codes into the Bell. It will modify its output to denature and selectively destroy any matching DNA while remaining harmless to all others. Our version of a final solution."
Gray pictured Fiona hidden up in her room. And Monk was being flown in right now.
"There's no need to kill them," Gray said. "You've recaptured my partner. Leave the others alone."
"If I've learned nothing in these past days, I've learned it's best to leave no loose strings." Baldric nodded to Isaak. "Activate the Bell."
"Wait!" Gray yelled, stepping forward.
Ischke had retrieved his pistol and warned him away with it.
Baldric glanced back, bored and impatient.
Gray had only one card to play. "I know how to break Hugo's code."
Surprise softened Baldric's stern demeanor. He lifted a delaying hand toward Isaak. "You do? You can succeed where a series of Cray computers has so far failed?"
Doubt rang in the man's voice.
Gray knew he had to offer Baldric something, anything to stop him from switching the Bell on and irradiating his friends. He pointed to the monitor, repetitively cycling through the runes. The computer shuffled and sought a combination that offered some mnemonic cipher.
"You'll fail on your own," Gray promised.
"And why's that?"
Gray licked his dry lips, scared, but he had to stay focused. He knew with certainty that the computer would fail because he had already solved the riddle of the runes. He didn't understand the answer, but he knew he was right, especially considering Hugo Hirszfeld's Jewish heritage.
Still, how much could he give away? He had to bargain to the best of his ability, balancing between the truth and the answer.
"You have the wrong rune from the Darwin Bible," Gray said truthfully. "And there are six, not just five, runes."
Baldric sighed. Disbelief deepened the lines around his mouth. "Like the sun wheel you drew before, I suppose?" He turned back toward Isaak.
"No!" Gray called out firmly. "Let me show you!"
He searched around and spotted a marker on one of the computer stations. He pointed and waved for it. "Pass me that."
Brows pinched, Baldric nodded to Isaak.
The marker was tossed at him.
Gray caught it and knelt on the floor. He drew on the gray linoleum tiles with the black marker. "The rune from the Darwin Bible."
He drew it.
"The Mensch rune," Baldric said.
Gray tapped it. "It represents man's higher state, the godlike plane hidden in all of us, our perfected selves."
"This was Hugo's goal. The end result sought. Yes?"
Baldric slowly nodded.
"Hugo would not have incorporated the result into his code. His code leads to this." He tapped the rune harder. "This doesn't belong in the code."
Slowly understanding dawned…as did the old man's belief. "The other runes in the Darwin Bible…"
Gray drew on the floor, illustrating his point.
"These two runes make up the third." He circled the two double-pronged runes. "These represent mankind at his most basic, what leads to the higher state. As such, it is these two runes that must be incorporated into the code."
Gray wrote the original series of runes. "This is the wrong sequence." riXMY
He crossed them out and inscribed the correct set, splitting the last rune.
Baldric stepped closer. "And this is the correct series? What must be deciphered?"
Gray answered truthfully. "Yes."
Baldric nodded, eyes squinting as he considered this revelation. "I believe you are right, Commander Pierce."
"Dank't/," Baldric said and turned back to Isaak. "Activate the Bell. Kill his friends."
Lisa helped lift Painter out of the helicopter as the rotors wound down. The Zulu warrior Tau shouldered his other side. The sedative she had given Painter was short-acting. It would wear off in another few minutes.
Gunther supported Anna, her eyes glazed. The woman had dosed herself with another numbing injection of morphine. But she had begun coughing up bloody sputum.
Ahead of them, Monk and Mosi D'Gana stood over the dead bodies of a trio of helipad sentries. Security had been caught off guard, expecting to be accepting a prisoner. It had only taken a short spat from a pair of pistols equipped with silencers to commandeer the helipad.
Monk switched places with Tau. "Stay here. Guard the chopper. Keep an eye on the prisoner."
Warden Kellogg had been pulled from the helicopter and dumped on the roof. He was gagged, his hands cuffed behind his back, his ankles tied. He wasn't going anywhere.
Monk waved Major Brooks and Mosi D'Gana to take the lead. They had all reviewed the house schematics from Paula Kane and calculated the best route to the subbasement level. It was a ways to go. The helipad was situated near the back of the mansion.
Brooks and Mosi led them toward the rooftop door to the manor house, assault rifles held at shoulders. The pair moved as if they'd worked together before, synchronized, efficient. Gunther also carried a pistol in his fist and a stubby-nosed assault rifle across his back. Bristling with armament, they reached the door.
Brooks dashed forward. Key cards stolen from the dead guards unlocked the way below. Brooks and Mosi disappeared inside, scouting ahead. The others hung back.
Monk checked his watch. Timing was everything.
A short whistling rose from below.
"Down we go," Monk said.
They hurried through the door and found a short stairwell leading to the sixth floor. Brooks stood at the landing. Another guard sprawled on the stairs, his neck sliced open, his life's blood pumping away. Mosi crouched at the next landing, bloodied knife in hand.