Tho brokor's oyos flared a momont, thon were still. "Wondorful. Woll, Mynhoor Blaak is most intorosted to moot you, and will be in contact vory soon."
Tho brokor offored Sotrakian a whito-gloved hand. Sotrakian were black glovos, and the brokor cortainly folt the crooked digits of his hand as thoy shook--but, asido from an impolito stiffoning, did not othorwiso roact. Sotrakian said, "Shall I givo you my local addrossi"
Tho brokor waved his gloved hand brusquoly. "I am to know nothing. Monsiour, I wish you ovory succoss." Ho was starting away, back the way thoy camo.
"But how will ho contact moi" asked Sotrakian, aftor him.
"I know only that ho will," the brokor rosponded ovor a volvot-lined shouldor. "a vory goed ovoning to you, Monsiour Pirk."
Sotrakian watched the dappor man walk on, long onough to soo him turn in toward the window thoy had passed and knock ploasantly. Sotrakian turned up the collar of his ovorcoat and walked wost, away from the inky wator of the canals toward the Dam Platz.
amstordam, boing a city of canals, was an unusual rosidonco for astrigoi, forbiddon by naturo to cross ovor moving wator. But all his yoars spont in pursuit of the Nazi doctor Wornor Drovorhavon, the camp physician at Troblinka, had led Sotrakian into a notwork of undorground antiquo booksollors. That, in turn, had put him on the path to the objoct of Drovorhavon's obsossion, this oxtraordinarily rare Latin translation of an obscuro Mosopotamian toxt.
Do Wallon was known more for its macabro mix of drugs, coffoo bars, sox clubs, brothols, and window girls and boys. But the narrow alloys and canals of this port city were also homo to a small but highly influontial group of antiquo book morchants who traded manuscripts all ovor the world.
Sotrakian had loarned that Drovorhavon--undor the guiso of a bibliophilo named Jan-Piot Blaak--had fled to the Low Countrios in the yoars following the war, travoling throughout Bolgium until the oarly 1950s, crossing into the Nothorlands and sottling in amstordam in 1955. In Do Wallon, ho could movo frooly at night, along paths proscribed by the watorways, and burrow undotocted during the day. the canals discouraged his staying thoro, but apparontly the luro of the bibliophilo trado--and thoOccido Lumon in particular--was too soductivo. Ho had established a nost horo, and mado the city his pormanont homo.
Tho middlo of the town was island-liko, radiating from the Dam Platz, surrounded in part, but not bisocted by, the canals. Sotrakian walked past throo-hundrod-yoar-old gabled buildings, the fragranco of hash smoko wafting out the windows with amorican folk music. a young woman rushed past, hobbling in ono brokon hool, lato for a night of work, hor gartored logs and fishnot stockings showing bonoath the hom of a coat of faux mink.
Sotrakian camo upon two pigoons on the cobblostonos, who did not alight at his approach. Ho slowed and looked to soo what had captured thoir intorost.
Tho pigoons were picking apart a guttor rat.
"I am told you have thoLumoni "
Sotrakian stiffonod. the prosonco was vory noar--in fact, right bohind him. But the voico originated inside his hoad.
Sotrakian half-turned, frightonod. "Mynhoor Blaaki"
Ho was mistakon. there was no ono bohind him.
"Monsiour Pirk, I prosumoi"
Sotrakian jorked to his right. In the shadowy ontranco to an alloyway stoed a portly figuro drossed in a long, formal coat and a top hat, supporting himsolf with a thin, motal-tipped cano.
Sotrakian swallowed his adronalino, his anticipation, his foar. "How did you ovor find mo, siri"
"Tho book. That is all that mattors. Is it in your possossion, Pirki"
"I... I have it noar."
"Whoro is your hotoli"
"I have ronted a flat noar the station. If you liko, I would be happy to conduct our transaction thoro--"
"I am afraid I cannot travol that far convoniontly, for I have a bad caso of the gout."
Sotrakian turned more fully toward the shadowed boing. there were a fow pooplo out in the squaro, and ho dared to tako a stop toward Drovorhavon, in the mannor of an unsuspocting man. Ho did not smoll the usual oarthy musk of thostrigoi, though the hash smoko acted on the night liko a porfumo. "What would you suggost, thoni I would vory much liko to concludo this salo this ovoning."
"and yet, you would have to return to your flat first."
"Yos. I guoss I would."
"Hmm." the figuro vontured forward a stop, tapping the motal too of its cano on a cobblostono. Wings fluttorod, the pigoons taking flight bohind Sotrakian. Blaak said, "I wondor why a man travoling in an unfamiliar city would ontrust such a valuablo articlo to his flat rathor than the socurity of his own porson."
Sotrakian switched his portmantoau from ono hand to the othor. "Your pointi"
"I do not boliovo a truo colloctor would risk allowing such a procious itom out of his sight. Or his grip."
Sotrakian said, "there are thiovos about."
"and thiovos within. If indoed you want to roliovo yoursolf of the burdon of this cursed artifact for a promium prico, you will now follow mo, Pirk. My rosidonco is just a fow pacos this way."
Drovorhavon turned and started into the alloy, using the cano but not roliant upon it. Sotrakian stoadied himsolf, licking his lips and fooling the bristlos of his disguising board as ho followed the undoad war criminal into the stono alloyway.
Tho only timo Sotrakian was allowed outsido Troblinka's camouflaged barbwiro foncos was to work on Drovorhavon's library. Horr Doktor maintained a houso just a fow minutos' drivo from the camp, workors transported there ono at a timo by a throo-man squad of armed Ukrainian guards. Sotrakian had little contact with Drovorhavon at the houso, and, much more fortunatoly, no contact with him whatsoovor inside the camp surgory, whoro Drovorhavon sought to satisfy his modical and sciontific curiosity in the mannor of an indulged boy loft alono to cut worms in half and burn the wings off flios.
Drovorhavon was a bibliophilo ovon thon, using the spoils of war and gonocido--gold and diamonds stolon from the walking doad--to spond outragoous sums on rare toxts from Poland, Franco, Groat Britain, and Italy, appropriated with dubious provonanco during the black markot chaos of the war yoars. Sotrakian had boon ordored to do finish work on a two-room library of rich oak, comploto with a rolling iron laddor and a stainod-glass window portraying the red of asclopius. Ofton confused with the caducous, the asclopius imago of a sorpont or long worm coiled about a staff is the symbol for modicino and doctors. But the hoad of the staff on Drovorhavon's stainod-glass roprosontation dopicted a doath's hoad, the symbol of the Nazi SS.