“Hello. I’ve got my hiring manifest or health-insurance waiver or something for you. And this is Roberts’s formal reprimand for his inappropriate text message. File it.” Miriam handed over the papers.
She slung the bag from her shoulder and tossed it to Matthew. “I brought everything you asked for, Matthew.”
The entire lab watched, openmouthed, as the bag full of computers sailed through the air. Matthew caught it without damaging a single laptop, and Chris looked at Miriam’s throwing arm with na**d admiration.
“Thank you, Miriam,” Matthew murmured. “I trust you had an uneventful journey.” His tone and choice of words were formal, but there was no disguising his relief at seeing her.
“I’m here, aren’t I?” she said caustically. Miriam pulled another piece of paper out of the back pocket on her miniskirt. After examining it she looked up. “Which one of you is Beaker?”
“Here.” Beaker walked toward Miriam, her hand extended. “Joy Connelly.”
“Oh. Sorry. All I have is a ridiculous list of nicknames drawn from the dregs of popular culture, along with some acronyms.” Miriam shook Beaker’s hand, drew a pen out of her boot, and crossed something out. She scribbled something next to it. “Nice to meet you. I like your RNA work. Sound stuff. Very helpful. Let’s go get coffee and figure out what needs to be done to whip this place into compliance.”
“The closest decent coffee is a bit of a hike,” Beaker said apologetically.
“Unacceptable.” Miriam made another note on her paper. “We need a café in the basement as soon as possible. I toured the building on my way up here, and that space is wasted now.”
“Should I come with you?” Chris asked, shifting on his feet.
“Not now,” Miriam told him. “Surely you have something more important to do. I’ll be back at one o’clock. That’s when I want to see”—she paused and scrutinized her list—“Sherlock, Game Boy, and Scully.”
“What about me, Miriam?” Shotgun asked.
“We’ll catch up later, Richard. Nice to see a familiar face.” She looked down at her list. “What does Roberts call you?”
“Shotgun.” Richard’s mouth twitched.
“I trust it’s because of your speedy sequencing, not because you’ve taken to hunting like humans.”
Miriam’s eyes narrowed. “Is what we’re doing here going to be a problem, Richard?”
“Can’t imagine why,” Richard said with a small shrug. “The Congregation and its concerns are way above my pay grade.”
“Good.” Miriam surveyed her openly curious new charges. “Well? What are you waiting for? If you want something to do, you can always run some gels. Or unpack supply boxes. There are plenty of them stacked up in the corridor.”
Everyone in the lab scattered.
“Thought so.” She smiled at Chris. He looked nervous. “As for you, Roberts, I’ll see you at two o’clock. We have your article to discuss. And your protocols to review. After that, you can take me to dinner. Somewhere nice, with steak and a good wine list.”
Chris looked dazed but nodded.
“Could you give us a minute?” I asked Chris and Beaker. They moved off to the side, Beaker grinning from ear to ear and Chris pinching the bridge of his nose. Matthew joined us.
“You look surprisingly well for someone who’s been to the sixteenth century and back, Matthew.
And Diana’s obviously enceinte, ” Miriam said, using the French word for “pregnant.”
“Thanks. Are you at Marcus’s place?” Matthew asked.
“That monstrosity on Orange Street? No chance. It’s a convenient location, but it gives me the creeps.” Miriam shivered. “Too much mahogany.”
“You’re welcome to stay with us on Court Street,” I offered. “There’s a spare bedroom on the third floor. You’d have privacy.”
“Thanks, but I’m around the corner. At Gallowglass’s condo,” Miriam replied.
“What condo?” Matthew frowned.
“The one he bought on Wooster Square. Some converted church. It’s very nice—a bit too Danish in decor, but far preferable to Marcus’s dark-and-gloomy period.” Miriam looked at Matthew sharply.
“Gallowglass did tell you he was coming with me?”
“No, he did not.” Matthew ran his fingers through his hair.
I knew just how my husband felt: The de Clermonts had switched into overprotective mode. Only now they weren’t protecting just me. They were protecting Matthew as well.
“Bad news, I’m afraid.” Lucy Meriweather’s lips twisted in a sympathetic grimace. She was one of the Beinecke librarians, and she’d helped me for years, both with my own research and on the occasions when I brought my students to the library to use the rare books there. “If you want to look at Manuscript 408, you’ll have to go into a private room with a curator. And there’s a limit of thirty minutes. They won’t let you sit in the reading room with it.”
“Thirty minutes? With a curator?” I was stunned by the regulations, having spent the last ten months with Matthew, who never paid any attention to such restrictions. “I’m a Yale professor. Why does a curator have to baby-sit me?”
“Those are the rules for everybody—even our own faculty. The whole thing is online,” Lucy reminded me.
But a computer image, no matter how high the resolution, wasn’t going to give me the information I needed. I’d last seen the Voynich manuscript—now Beinecke Library MS 408—in 1591, when Matthew had carried the book from Dr. Dee’s library to the court of Emperor Rudolf in Prague, hoping that we could swap it for the Book of Life. Now I hoped it would shed light on what Edward Kelley might have done with those missing pages.
I’d been searching for clues to their whereabouts since we went to Madison. One missing page had an image of two scaly, long-tailed creatures bleeding into a round vessel. The other image was a splendid rendering of a tree, its branches bearing an impossible combination of flowers, fruit, and leaves and its trunk made up of writhing human shapes. I’d hoped that locating the two pages would be fairly straightforward in the age of Internet searches and digitized images. So far that had not been the case.
“Maybe if you could explain why you need to see the physical book . . .” Lucy trailed off.
But how could I tell Lucy I needed the book so I could use magic on it?
This was the Beinecke Library, for heaven’s sake.
If anyone found out, it would ruin my career.
“I’ll look at the Voynich tomorrow.” Hopefully, I would have another plan by then, since I couldn’t very well haul out my mother’s book of shadows and devise new spells in front of a curator. Juggling my witch self and my scholar self was proving difficult. “Did the other books I requested arrive?”
“They did.” Lucy’s eyebrows lifted when she slid the collection of medieval magical texts across the desk, along with several early printed books. “Changing your research focus?”
In an effort to be prepared for any magical eventuality when finally it came time to recall Ashmole 782 and reunite it with its missing pages, I had called up books that might inspire my efforts to weave new higher-magic spells. Though my mother’s spell book was a valuable resource, I knew from my own experience how far modern witches had fallen when compared to the witches of the past.
“Alchemy and magic aren’t completely distinct,” I told Lucy defensively. Sarah and Em had tried to get me to see that for years. At last I believed them.
Once I was settled in the reading room, the magical manuscripts were as intriguing as I’d hoped, with sigils that reminded me of weavers’ knots and gramarye that was precise and potent. The early-modern books on witchcraft, most of which I knew only by title and reputation, were horrifying, however. Each one brimmed with hatred—for witches and anyone else who was different, rebellious, or refused to conform to societal expectations.
Hours later, still seething over Jean Bodin’s vitriolic insistence that all foul opinions about witches and their evil deeds were warranted, I returned the books and manuscripts to Lucy and made an appointment for nine o’clock the next morning to view the Voynich manuscript with the head curator.
I tramped up the staircase to the main level of the library. Here, glass-encased books formed the Beinecke’s spinal column, the core of knowledge and ideas around which the collection was built. Rows and rows of rare books were lined up on the shelves, bathed in light. It was a breathtaking sight, one that reminded me of my purpose as a historian: to rediscover the important truths contained in those old, dusty volumes.
Matthew was waiting for me outside. He was lounging against the low wall overlooking the Beinecke’s stark sculpture garden, his legs crossed at the ankles, thumbing through the messages on his phone. Sensing my presence, he looked up and smiled.
Not a creature alive could have resisted that smile or the look of concentration in those gray-green eyes.
“How was your day?” he asked after giving me a kiss. I’d asked him not to text me constantly, and he’d been unusually cooperative. As a result he genuinely didn’t know.
“A bit frustrating. I suppose my research skills are bound to be rusty after so many months.
Besides”—my voice dropped—“the books all look weird to me. They’re so old and worn compared to how they looked in the sixteenth century.”
Matthew put his head back and laughed. “I hadn’t thought about that. Your surroundings have changed, too, since you last worked on alchemy at Baynard’s Castle.” He looked over his shoulder at the Beinecke. “I know the library is an architectural treasure, but I still think it looks like an ice-cube tray.”
“So it does,” I agreed with a smile. “I suppose if you’d built it, the Beinecke would look like a Norman keep or a Romanesque cloister.”
“I was thinking of something Gothic—far more modern,” Matthew teased. “Ready to go home?”
“More than ready,” I said, wanting to leave Jean Bodin behind me.
He gestured at my book bag. “May I?”
Usually Matthew didn’t ask. He was trying not to smother me, just as he was attempting to rein in his overprotectiveness. I rewarded him with a smile and handed it over without a word.
“Where’s Roger?” I asked Lucy, looking down at my watch. I’d been granted exactly thirty minutes with the Voynich manuscript, and the curator was nowhere to be seen.
“Roger called in sick, just as he always does on the first day of classes. He hates the hysteria and all the freshmen asking for directions. You’re stuck with me.” Lucy picked up the box that held Beinecke MS 408.
“Sounds good.” I tried to keep the excitement out of my voice. This might be exactly the break I needed.
Lucy led me to a small private room with windows overlooking the reading room, poor lighting, and a beat-up foam cradle. Security cameras mounted high on the walls would deter any reader from stealing or damaging one of the Beinecke’s priceless books.
“I won’t start the clock until you unwrap it.” Lucy handed me the boxed manuscript. It was all she was carrying. There were no papers, reading materials, or even a cell phone to distract her from the job of monitoring me.
Though I normally flipped manuscripts open to look at the images, I wanted to take my time with the Voynich. I slid the manuscript’s limp vellum binding—the early-modern equivalent of a paperback—through my fingers. Images flooded my mind, my witch’s touch revealing that the present cover was put on the book several centuries after it was written and at least fifty years after I’d held it in Dee’s library.
I could see the bookbinder’s face and seventeenth-century hairstyle when I touched the spine.
I carefully laid the Voynich in the waiting foam cradle and opened the book. I lowered my nose until it practically touched the first, stained page.
“What are you doing, Diana? Smelling it?” Lucy laughed softly.
“As a matter of fact, I am.” If Lucy was going to cooperate with my strange requests this morning, I needed to be as honest as possible.
Openly curious, Lucy came around the table. She gave the Voynich a good sniff, too.
“Smells like an old manuscript to me. Lots of bookworm damage.” She swung her reading glasses down and took an even closer look.
“Robert Hooke examined bookworms under his microscope in the seventeenth century. He called them ‘the teeth of time.’” Looking at the first page of the Voynich, I could see why. It was riddled with holes in the upper right corner and the bottom margin, both of which were stained. “I think the bookworms must have been drawn to the oils that readers’ fingers transferred to the parchment.”
“What makes you say that?” Lucy asked. It was just the response I’d hoped for.
“The damage is worst where a reader would have touched to turn to the next folio.” I rested my finger on the corner of the page, as if I were pointing to something.
That brief contact set off another explosion of faces, one morphing into another: Emperor Rudolf’s avaricious expression; a series of unknown men dressed in clothing from different periods, two of them clerics; a woman taking careful notes; another woman packing up a box of books. And the daemon Edward Kelley, furtively tucking something into the Voynich’s cover.
“There is a lot of damage on the bottom edge, too, where the manuscript would have rested against the body if you were carrying it.” Ignorant of the slide show playing before my witch’s third eye, Lucy peered down at the page. “The clothes of the time were probably pretty oily. Didn’t most people wear wool?”