And each time Gray feared they would not find it.
"How is your father doing?" Rachel asked, beginning the first steps of the dance.
He welcomed the diversion, while not necessarily the subject matter. But at least he had good news. "He's actually doing very well. His symptoms have pretty much stabilized as of late. Only a few bouts of confusion. My mother is convinced the improvement is due to curry."
"Curry? As in the spice?"
"Exactly. She read an article that curcumin, the yellow pigment in curry, acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Possibly it even helps break down the amyloid plaques attributable to Alzheimer's."
"That does sound promising."
"So now my mother puts curry into everything. Even my father's scrambled eggs in the morning. The whole house smells like an Indian restaurant."
Rachel's soft laughter brightened the dreary morning. "At least she's cooking."
Gray's smile broadened on its own. His mother, a tenured biology professor at George Washington University, had never been known for her homemaking skills. She'd been too busy building her career, a necessity after an industrial accident had disabled Gray's father almost two decades ago. Now the family was struggling with a new issue: the early stages of his father's Alzheimer's. Recently, Gray's mother had taken a short leave of absence from the university to help care for her husband, but now there was talk of her returning to the classroom. With everything going so well, it had proven a good time for Gray to escape D.C. for this short trip.
Before he could respond, his phone chimed with another call. He checked the caller ID. Damn…
"Rachel, I've got a call coming in from central command. I'll need to take this. I'm sorry."
"Oh, then I'll let you go."
"Wait, Rachel. Your new flight number."
"It's KLM flight four zero three."
"Got it. I'll see you tonight."
"Tonight," she echoed back and clicked off.
Gray pressed his flash button to activate the other call. "Pierce here."
"Commander Pierce." The speaker's clipped New England accent identified the man immediately as Logan Gregory, second in command of Sigma Force, serving directly under Director Painter Crowe. In his usual perfunctory manner, Logan did not waste words.
"We've new chatter to report that may relate to your search in Copenhagen. Interpol reports a sudden increase in interest in today's auction."
Gray had crossed another bridge. He stopped again. Ten days ago, a database at the National Security Agency had flagged a series of black market trades, all pertaining to historical documents that once belonged to Victorian-era scientists. Someone was collecting manuscripts, transcripts, legal documents, letters, and diaries from that era, many with shady trails of ownership. And while normally this would be of little interest to Sigma Force, which concentrated on global security issues, the NSA database tied several of the sales to factions within terrorist organizations. And such organizations' money trails were always scrutinized.
Still it made no sense. While certainly such historical documents had proven to be a growing market for speculative investment, it was not the bailiwick of most terrorist organizations. Then again, times were changing.
Either way, Sigma Force had been tapped to investigate the principals involved. Gray's assignment was to get as much background on the by-invitation-only sale that was to occur later this afternoon, which included researching items of particular interest, several being put up by local collectors and shops in the area. Hence he had spent the past two days visiting the dusty bookstores and antiquary establishments in the narrow backstreets of Copenhagen. He discovered the most help at a shop on Hojbro Plads, owned by an ex-lawyer from Georgia. With the ex-pat's help, Gray felt prepared. His plan this morning had been to canvass the auction site and secure a few buttonhole cameras near all entrances and exits. At the auction, Gray was merely to observe the principals and get head shots when possible. A minor assignment, but if it extended the database of peripheral players in the war on terror, all the better.
"What's stirred up the pot?" Gray asked.
"A new line item. It's attracted the attention of several of the principals we're investigating. An old Bible. Just put up by a private party."
"And what's so exciting about that?"
"According to the line item description, the Bible originally belonged to Darwin."
"As in Charles Darwin, the father of evolution?"
Gray tapped a knuckle on the brick parapet. Another Victorian-era scientist.
As he contemplated this, he studied the neighboring bridge.
He found himself fixated on a teenage girl in a dark blue zippered sweater-jacket with the hood pulled up. Seventeen…eighteen. Smooth-faced, her skin was the color of burnt caramel. Indian? Pakistani? What he could see of her black hair was long, spilling out one side of the hood in a single thick braid. She carried a green, battered pack over her left shoulder, like many of the backpacking college students.
Except Gray had seen the young woman before…crossing the first bridge. Her eyes met his for a moment across the fifty yards. She turned away too quickly. Sloppy.
She was following him.
Logan continued, "I've uploaded the seller's address into your phone's database. You should have enough time to interview the owner before the auction."
Gray glanced to the address that appeared on the screen, pinpointed on a city map. Eight blocks away, just off the Stroget, the main pedestrian plaza that ran through the heart of Copenhagen. Not far.
From the corner of his eye, Gray continued to monitor the reflection of the bridge in the canal's still waters below. In the wavering mirror, he watched the girl hunch her shoulders, pulling her backpack higher in a weak attempt to hide her features.
Did she know her cover had been blown?
"Commander Pierce?" Logan said.
The girl reached the end of the bridge, strode away, and vanished down a side street. He waited to see if she doubled back.
"Commander Pierce, did you get that address?"
"Yes. I'll check into it."
"Very good." Logan signed off.
From the canal railing, Gray canvassed his surroundings, watching for the girl's return or the appearance of any accomplices. He regretted leaving his 9mm Glock in the hotel safe. But the instructions from the auction house warned that all invited participants would be searched upon entering, including passing through a metal detector. Gray's only weapon was a carbonized plastic knife in a boot sheath. That was it.