Polite applause met the concluding bid.
Gray knew it would have been more boisterous if he had won. Still, he was surprised to see who was clapping beside him.
She grinned at him. "Let's get out of here."
They joined the flow of people filing out the door. Gray was offered sympathy and condolences from a few of the other participants as he departed. Soon they reached the streets. They all went their separate ways.
Fiona tugged him a few shops down and directed him into a nearby patisserie, a French affair of chintz drapery and wrought-iron cafe tables. The girl picked a spot near a display filled with cream puffs, petits fours, chocolate eclairs, and smerrebred, the ubiquitous Danish open-face sandwich.
She ignored the treats, beaming with a strange glee.
"Why are you so happy?" Gray finally asked. "We lost the bid."
Gray sat facing the window. They would have to watch their backs. Still, he hoped now, with the Bible sold, that perhaps the danger would subside.
"We stuck it to them!" Fiona said. "Drove it to three mill. Brilliant!"
"I don't think money means that much to them."
Fiona pulled the pin on her bun and shook her hair loose. She lost a decade of age in appearance. Amusement continued to shine in her eyes, with an edge of malicious delight.
Gray suddenly felt a sick twist of his stomach.
"Fiona, what have you done?"
She lifted her purse to the table, tilted it toward Gray, and held it open. He leaned forward.
A battered leather-bound tome rested in her purse.
A match to the Darwin Bible that had just been sold.
"Is that the real one?" he asked.
"I nicked it right from under that blind wanker in the back room."
"A bit of the old bait and switch. Took me all day to find a Bible the right size and shape. Course I had to tinker with it a bit afterward. But then all it took was lots of tears and shouting, a bit of fumbling…" She shrugged. "And Bob's your uncle, it was done."
"If you already had the Bible, why did you have me bid—?" Realization struck Gray. "You played me."
"To make those bastards shell out three mill for a two-pence fake!"
"They'll discover soon enough that it's not the real book," Gray said, horror rising.
"Yeah, but I plan to be long gone by then."
"Going with you." Fiona snapped the bag closed.
"I don't think so."
"You remember when Mutti told you about the disbanded library? Where the Darwin Bible came from?"
Gray knew what she was talking about. Grette Neal had hinted that someone was reconstructing some old scientist's library. She had been going to let him copy the original bill of sale, but then they'd been attacked, and it was lost to the flames.
Fiona tapped her forehead. "I have the address stored right here." She then held out a hand. "So?"
Frowning, he went to shake it.
She pulled her hand back in distaste. "As if." Extending her arm again, she turned her palm up. "I want to see your real passport, you wanker. You think I can't scope out a fake one when I see it."
He met her gaze. She had stolen his passport earlier. Her look now was uncompromising. Frowning, he finally reached to a concealed pocket of his suit and took out his real passport.
Fiona read it. "Grayson Pierce." She tossed it back on the table. "Nice to meet you…finally"
He retrieved his passport. "So the Bible. Where did it come from?"
"I'll only tell if you take me with you."
"Don't be ridiculous. You can't come with me. You're only a child."
"A child with the Darwin Bible."
Gray tired of her blackmail. He could snatch the Bible whenever he wanted to, but the same couldn't be said for her information. "Fiona, this isn't some goddamn game."
Her eyes hardened on him, aging before him. "And you don't think I know that." Her words were deadly cold. "Where were you when they took my Mutti out in bags? Bloody goddamn bagsA"
Gray closed his eyes. She had struck a nerve, but he refused to relent. "Fiona, I'm sorry," he said with a strained voice. "But what you're asking is impossible. I can't take—"
The explosion shook the patisserie like an earthquake. The front glass rattled, dishes crashed. Fiona and Gray stood and went to the window. Smoke billowed across the street, fuming and roiling into the dusky sky. Flames danced and licked upward from the shattered side of a building across the street.
Fiona glanced to Gray. "Let me guess," she said.
"My hotel room," he admitted.
"So much for the head start."
11:47 p.m. HIMALAYAS
Captured by the Germans, Painter rode behind Lisa on a sled pulled by one of the snowmobiles. They had been traveling for almost an hour, cinched in place with plastic straps and bound together. At least their sled was heated.
Still he kept hunched over Lisa, sheltering her as best he could with his body. She leaned back into him. It was all they could manage. Their wrists were bound to stanchions on either side.
Ahead, the assassin rode on the backseat of the towing snowmobile. He faced to the rear, rifle pointing at them, mismatched eyes never wavering. Anna Sporrenberg piloted the vehicle, the leader of this group.
A group of former Nazis.
Or reformed Nazis.
Or whoever the hell they were.
Painter shoved the question aside. He had a more important puzzle to solve at the moment.
En route, Painter had learned how easily he and Lisa had been discovered hiding in their cave. Through infrared. Against the frigid landscape, their heat signature had been easy to pick up, revealing their hiding place.
The same would make flight across this terrain almost impossible.
He continued his deliberation, mind focused on one goal.
For the past hour, the caravan of snowmobiles had trundled through the wintry night. The vehicles were equipped with electric motors, gliding with almost no noise. In silence, the five snowmobiles traversed the maze with practiced ease, gliding along cliff edges, diving down steep valleys, sweeping over bridges of ice.
He did his best to memorize their route. But exhaustion and the complexity of their path confounded him. It didn't help that his skull had begun to pound again. The headaches had returned—as had the disorientation and vertigo. He had to admit that his symptoms were not subsiding. He also had to admit that he was thoroughly lost.