To love or not to love.
The wave or the particle.
Maybe for Painter and Lisa, it was still both, a suspended potential that only time would settle.
"I don't know," Gray mumbled, answering Monk's inquiry.
He headed toward the house, thinking about his own future.
Like everyone else, he had his own reality to measure.
6:45 p.m. WROCLAW, POLAND
He was late.
As the sun sank toward the horizon, Gray marched across the green cast-iron bridge. The baroque span forded the River Oder, a flat green expanse polished to a mirror's sheen by the setting sun.
Gray checked his watch. Rachel should be landing right about now. They were set to meet at the coffeehouse across the street from their hotel in the old historic district. But first he had one last thread to tie up, one last interview.
Gray continued across the pedestrian bridge. Below, a pair of black swans sliced across the waters. A few gulls swept across the sky, reflected in the river. The air smelled of the sea and the lilacs growing along the edges of the waterway. He had started this journey at a bridge in Copenhagen, and now it ended at another.
He lifted his gaze to the ancient city of black spires, copper-roofed turrets, and renaissance clock towers. The city of Wroclaw was once named Breslau, a fortified township on the border between Germany and Poland. Large sections of the city had been flattened during World War II as the German Wehrmacht fought the Russian Red Army.
The aftermath of that attack had also drawn Gray here…some sixty years later.
Ahead rose Cathedral Island. The twin gothic towers of the island's namesake, the Cathedral of John the Baptist, glowed fiery as the day ended. But the cathedral was not Gray's destination. There were scores of other smaller churches huddled on the island. Gray's goal lay only steps from the bridge.
His boots crossed from iron grate to stone street.
The Church of Saints Peter and Paul squatted humbly to the left, easy to miss, merging its rear facade with the brick river wall. Gray spotted a small coal door that led from the waterway's rocky bank to the back of the church rectory.
Had a certain child once played along there?
A perfect child.
Gray knew from recently unsealed Russian records that the motherless boy had been raised at the orphanage once run by the Church of Saints Peter and Paul. There were many such abandoned children after the war, but Gray had narrowed the possibilities by age, sex, and hair color.
The last of these parameters was most certainly white-blond.
Gray also found records of the Russian Red Army's search of the city, of their scouring of the mountains for the Nazis' subterranean weapons labs, of their discovery at Wenceslas Mine. They had come close to capturing SS-Obergruppenführer Jakob Sporrenberg, Anna and Gunther's grandfather, as he evacuated the Bell. Lisa had learned from Anna that it was in this city, in this river, that Tola, Hugo's daughter, had drowned the baby.
But had she?
It was this one possibility that had Gray and a handful of Sigma research experts delving into old records, following a trail long gone cold, pieced from bits and shreds. Then the discovery…a priest's diary, the one who ran the orphanage here, telling of a baby boy, cold and alone, found with his dead mother. She was buried in a cemetery near here, nameless until now.
But the boy had lived, grown up here, entering the seminary under the tutelage of the same priest who rescued him, gaining the name Father Piotr.
Gray crossed to the rectory door. He had called in advance to interview the sixty-year-old priest, posing as a reporter researching wartime orphans for a book. Gray lifted and tapped the iron knocker on the nondescript plank door.
He could hear singing rising from the church itself, a service under way.
After a few moments, the door opened.
Gray knew instantly who greeted him, recognizing from old photos the lineless old face and bushy white hair parted down the middle. Father Piotr was casually dressed in jeans, black shirt, white Roman collar of his profession, and a light, buttoned sweater.
He spoke English with a thick Polish accent.
"You must be Nathan Sawyer."
Gray wasn't—but he nodded, suddenly uncomfortable lying to a priest. But such subterfuge was necessary, as much for the old priest's sake as his own.
He cleared his throat. "Thank you for granting me this interview."
"Certainly. Please come in. Be welcome."
Father Piotr led Gray through the rectory hall to a small room with a warm coal stove in the corner. He had a pot of tea brewing atop it. Gray was motioned to a chair. Once seated, Gray took out a pad containing a handful of questions.
Piotr poured two cups and settled to a worn wingback, the cushions long contoured to the man's body. A Bible rested on a table beside a glass-shaded lamp, along with a few tattered mystery novels.
"You've come to inquire about Father Varick," the man asked with a soft and genuine smile. "A great man."
Gray nodded. "And about your life here at the orphanage."
Piotr sipped his tea and waved fingers at Gray to continue.
The questions were not that important, mostly filling in blanks. Gray already knew almost everything about the man's life. Rachel's uncle Vigor, as head of the Vatican's intelligence branch, had supplied Sigma with a complete and detailed dossier on the Catholic father.
Including medical records.
Father Piotr had lived an unassuming life within the church. There was nothing especially noteworthy about his accomplishments beyond steadfast devotion to his flock. His health, though, remained exceptionally good. Little to no medical history. A broken bone when he was a teenager, falling off a rock. But other than that, routine physicals showed a perfectly fit individual. He wasn't massive like Gunther or wickedly agile like the Waalenbergs. Just stolidly healthy.
The interview turned up nothing new.
Gray eventually closed his notebook and thanked the father for his time. Just to be thorough, he would obtain blood and DNA samples when the priest went for his next physical, again coordinated through Rachel's uncle. But Gray didn't expect anything much to come of it.
Hugo's perfected child turned out to be simply a decent and thoughtful man with resoundingly good health. Maybe that was perfection enough.
As Gray was leaving, he spotted an unfinished jigsaw puzzle spread on a table in the room's corner. He nodded to it. "So you like puzzles?"
Father Piotr smiled guiltily, disarmingly. "Just a hobby. Keeps the mind sharp."
Gray nodded and headed out. He thought of Hugo Hirszfeld's interest in the same. Had some insubstantial essence of the Jewish researcher been passed to the boy, imparted through the Bell? As Gray left the church and headed back over the river, he pondered such connections. Fathers and sons. Was it just genetics? Or was there something more? Something at the quantum level?