Slowly, after some milling, amid condolences and good-byes, the service broke up. Everyone wandered toward black limousines and Town Cars.
Gray nodded to Painter. He limped with a cane, recovering from his debilitation, stronger every day. At his side, Dr. Lisa Cummings had an arm hooked around his elbow, not supporting him, just being near him.
Monk trailed as they headed together toward the waiting line of cars.
Kat was still in the hospital. The funeral would have been too much for her anyway. Too soon.
Upon reaching the parked cars, Gray stepped up to Painter. They had some matters to settle.
Lisa kissed the director on the cheek. "I'll see you there." She stepped back with Monk. They would be taking another vehicle to the Gregorys' home, where a small gathering would take place.
Gray had been surprised to learn that Logan's parents lived only blocks from his own parents in Takoma Park. It just showed how little he really knew about the man.
Painter crossed to a Lincoln Town Car and opened the door. They climbed into the backseat. The driver lifted the privacy screen as he pulled from the curb.
"Gray, I read your report," Painter finally said. "It's an interesting angle. Go ahead and follow up on it. But it would mean another trip to Europe."
"I've some personal matters to settle there anyway. It's what I came to discuss, to ask for a few extra days."
Painter lifted one eyebrow in tired levity. "I don't know if the world is ready for another one of your working vacations."
Gray had to concede that might be true.
Painter shifted, plainly still suffering some aches. "And what about the report from Dr. Marcia Fairfield? Do you think…believe that the Waalenberg lineage…?" Painter shook his head.
Gray had read the report, too. He remembered when he and the British doctor had been skulking about the embryonic lab at the deepest levels of the subbasement. Dr. Fairfield had once claimed that the greater the treasure, the deeper it was buried. The same could be said for secrets, especially those kept by the Waalenbergs. Like their experiments with chimera, mixing human and animal stem cells in the brain.
But even that was not the worst.
"We checked the corporate medical records from the early 1950s," Gray said. "It's been confirmed. Baldric Waalenberg was sterile."
Painter shook his head. "No wonder the bastard had been so obsessed with breeding and genetics, continually battling to bend nature to his will. He was the last of the Waalenbergs. But his new children…the ones he used in the experiments? Is it true?"
Gray shrugged. "Baldric was involved intimately with the Nazi Lebensborn program. Their Aryan breeding program. Along with other eugenics projects and early attempts to store eggs and sperm. At the war's end, it seems the Xerum 525 program was not the only secret project that ended up in Baldric's lap. One other did. One frozen inside glass straws. And once thawed, Baldric used the samples to inseminate his young wife."
"And you're sure of this?"
Gray nodded. Down in the subterranean lab, Dr. Fairfield had viewed the real family tree of the new-and-improved Waalenberg clan. She saw the name typed next to Baldric's wife. Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Black Order. The Nazi bastard might have killed himself after the war, but he had a plan to live on, to birth the new Aryan supermen, a new line of German kings, out of his own corrupted seed.
"And with the Waalenberg clan eradicated," Gray said, "that monster is finally laid to rest, too."
"At least we hope so."
Gray nodded. "I'm in contact with Khamisi. He's keeping us informed on the cleanup at the estate. So far they've rounded up several of the guards. He fears some of the estate's menagerie may have escaped into the deeper forest, but most were likely destroyed during the blast. But the search continues."
Khamisi had been named interim head warden for the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi reserve. He had also been given emergency policing authority by the South African government, helping coordinate local tribal support with Chief Mosi D'Gana. Drs. Paula Kane and Marcia Fairfield were providing him with technical support in handling the international intelligence communities' response to the attack on the mansion and bombing.
The two women had settled back into their home on the reserve, happy to discover each other alive and well, but they had also opened their house to Fiona. The two spies had even helped Fiona get into an early-acceptance program at Oxford.
Gray stared out at the flashing scenery. He hoped Oxford had everything nailed down very securely. He suspected the petty crime rate around the university was about to have a sudden and significant uptick.
Thinking about Fiona, Gray was reminded that he needed to check on Ryan. With the murder of Ryan's father, the young man had put his family estate on the auction block, determined at long last to escape the shadow of Wewelsburg.
Just as well.
"And what about Monk and Kat?" Painter asked, drawing back his attention. His voice was brighter, shedding some of the sorrow over the loss of his friend, or at least setting it aside. "I heard they got engaged yesterday."
Gray found himself smiling for the first time today. "They did."
"Heaven help us."
Again Gray had to agree with the man. They shared this small bit of happiness. Life rolled on. They went over a handful of other details, and eventually the driver wound their Town Car through the tree-lined streets of Takoma Park, settling to a stop before a small green-shingled Victorian.
Painter climbed out.
Lisa was already there.
"Are we done here?" Painter asked Gray.
"Let me know what you find in Europe. And take those extra days."
"Thank you, sir."
Painter held out an arm. Lisa slipped into it. The pair headed toward the house together.
As Gray climbed out, Monk joined him and nodded to the woman and the director. "Any bets?"
Gray watched them climb the porch stairs. The two had been almost inseparable since leaving the Waalenberg estate. With Anna dead and Gunther vanished, Lisa was now the only living source for information on the Bell's operation. She had been spending many hours at Sigma, being questioned. Yet Gray suspected the debriefings were also an excuse for Painter and Lisa to spend more time together.
It seemed the Bell had done more than just heal the flesh.
Gray stared a moment at their joined hands as they reached the porch. He pondered Monk's question. Any bets? At this point, maybe it was too early to tell. If life and consciousness were a quantum phenomenon, then maybe love was, too.