The Templar Legacy (Page 3)


STEPHANIE WAS SHAKEN. AFTER TWENTY-SIX YEARS WORKING for the Justice Department, the past fifteen heading the Magellan Billet, she'd learned that if it stood on four legs, had a trunk, and smelled like peanuts, it was an elephant. No need to hang a sign across its torso. Which meant the man in the red jacket was no purse snatcher.

He was something else altogether.

And that meant somebody knew her business.

She'd watched as the thief leaped from the tower--the first time she'd ever actually witnessed death. For years she'd heard her agents talk about it, but a vast chasm lay between reading a report and seeing someone die. The body had slammed into the cobbles with a sickening thud. Did he jump? Or had Malone forced him over? Was there a struggle? Had he spoken before leaping?

She'd come to Denmark for a singular purpose and had decided, while there, to visit with Malone. Years ago he'd been one of her original twelve choices for the Magellan Billet. She'd known Malone's father and watched the steady rise of the son, glad to have him when he accepted her offer and moved from Navy JAG to Justice. He eventually grew to be her best agent, and she was saddened when he'd decided last year that he wanted out.

She'd not seen him since, though they'd talked on the phone a few times. When he'd given chase to the thief, she'd noticed that his tall frame remained muscular and his hair thick and wavy, carrying the same light sienna tint she remembered, similar to the olden stone in the buildings surrounding her. For the dozen years he'd worked for her, he'd always been forthright and independent, which had made him a good operative--one she could trust--yet there was compassion, too. He'd actually been more than an employee.

He was her friend.

But that didn't mean she wanted him in her business.

Pursuing the man in the red jacket was like Malone, but it was also a problem. Visiting with him now would mean there'd be questions, ones she had no intention of answering.

Time with an old friend would have to await another occasion.

MALONE EXITED THE ROUND TOWER AND STARTED AFTER STEPHANIE. As he'd left the roof, paramedics were tending to the older couple. The elderly man was shaken from a blow to the head, but would be all right. The woman remained hysterical and he'd heard one of the attendants urge that she be taken to a waiting ambulance.

Red Jacket's body still lay on the street, beneath a pale yellow sheet, and police were busy moving people out of the way. Edging through the crowd, Malone watched as the sheet was lifted away and the police photographer went to work. The thief had clearly slit his throat. The bloodied knife lay a few feet away from one arm contorted at an unnatural angle. Blood had poured from the neck gash, settling across the cobbles in a dark pool. The skull was caved in, the torso crushed, the legs twisted as if they contained no bone. The police had told Malone not to leave--they would need a statement--but at the moment he needed to find Stephanie.

He emerged from the gawkers and glanced back up into the evening sky, where the late-afternoon sun shone with spendthrift glory. Not a cloud loomed in sight. Should be an excellent night to view the stars, but no one would visit the observatory atop the Round Tower. No. That was closed for the evening, as a man had just jumped to his death.

And what of that man?

Malone's thoughts were a tangle of curiosity and apprehension. He knew he should go back to his bookshop and forget all about Stephanie Nelle and whatever she was doing. Her business was no longer his. But he knew that wasn't going to happen.

Something was unfolding, and it wasn't good.

He spotted Stephanie fifty yards ahead on Vestergade, another of the long lanes that spiderwebbed Copenhagen's shopping district. Her pace was brisk, undaunted, then she abruptly veered right and disappeared into one of the buildings.

He trotted forward and saw HANSEN'S ANTIKVARIAT--a bookshop, its proprietor one of the few people in town who'd not offered Malone a warm welcome. Peter Hansen did not like foreigners, especially Americans, and had even tried to block Malone's induction into the Danish Antiquarian Booksellers Association. Thankfully, Hansen's distaste had not proven contagious.

Old instincts were taking over, feelings and senses that had lain dormant since his retirement last year. Sensations he did not like. But ones that had always driven him forward.

He stopped short of the front doorway and saw Stephanie inside, talking to Hansen. The two then retreated deeper into the store, which filled the ground floor of a three-story building. He knew the interior layout, having last year studied the Copenhagen bookstores. Nearly all of them were a testament to Nordic neatness, the stacks organized by subject, books carefully shelved. Hansen, though, was more haphazard. His was an eclectic mix of old and new--mainly new, since he was not one to pay top dollar for private acquisitions.

Malone slipped into the dim space and hoped none of the employees called out his name. He'd had dinner a couple of times with Hansen's manager, which was how he'd learned that he was not Hansen's favorite person. Luckily, she was not around and only ten or so people perused the shelves. He quickly moved toward the back where, he knew, there were myriad cubbyholes, each one brimming with shelves. He was not comfortable being here--after all, Stephanie had merely called and said she'd be in town for a few hours and wanted to say hello--but that was before Red Jacket. And he was damn curious to know what that man died wanting.

He shouldn't be surprised by Stephanie's behavior. She'd always kept everything close to her vest, too close sometimes, which had often generated clashes. One thing to be safe in an Atlanta office working a computer, quite another being out in the field. Good decisions could never be made without good information.

He spotted Stephanie and Hansen inside a windowless alcove that served as Hansen's office. Malone had visited there once when he'd first tried to make friends with the idiot. Hansen was a heavy-chested man with a long nose that overhung a grizzly mustache. Malone positioned himself behind a row of overloaded shelves and grabbed a book, pretending to read.

"Why have you come such a long way for this?" Hansen was saying in his tight, wheezy voice.

"Are you familiar with the Roskilde auction?"

Typical Stephanie, answering a question she didn't want to answer with another question.

"I attend often. Lots of books for sale."

Malone, too, was familiar with the auction. Roskilde lay thirty minutes west of Copenhagen. The town's antique-book dealers convened once a quarter for a sale that brought buyers from all over Europe. Two months after opening his shop, Malone had earned nearly two hundred thousand euros there from four books he'd managed to find at an obscure estate sale in the Czech Republic. Those funds had made his transition from salaried government employee to entrepreneur a lot less stressful. But they also bred jealousy, and Peter Hansen had not hidden his envy.

"I need the one book we spoke about. Tonight. You said there would be no problem buying it," Stephanie said, in the tone of someone accustomed to giving orders.

Hansen chuckled. "Americans. All alike. The world revolves around you."

"My husband said you were a man who could find the unfindable. The book I want is already found. I just need it purchased."

"It does go to the highest bidder."

Malone winced. Stephanie did not know the perilous territory she was navigating. The first rule of the bargain was never to reveal how badly you wanted something.

"It's an obscure book that no one cares about," she said.

"But apparently you do, which means there will be others."

"Let's make sure we're the highest bidder."

"Why is this book so important? I've never heard of it. Its author is unknown."

"Did you question my husband's motives?"

"What does that mean?"

"That it's none of your business. Secure the book and I'll pay your fee, as agreed."

"Why don't you buy it yourself?"

"I don't plan to explain myself."

"Your husband was much more agreeable."

"He's dead."

Though the declaration carried no emotion, a moment of silence passed.

"Are we to travel to Roskilde together?" Hansen asked, apparently getting the message that he was going to learn nothing from her.

"I'll meet you there."

"I can hardly wait."

Stephanie bounded from the office and Malone shrank farther into his alcove, his face turned away as she passed. He heard the door to Hansen's office slam shut and took the opportunity to stride back toward the front entrance.

Stephanie exited the darkened shop and turned left. Malone waited, then crept forward and watched his former boss weave her way through afternoon shoppers back toward the Round Tower.

He dropped back and followed.

Her head never turned. She seemed oblivious that anyone might be interested in what she was doing. Yet she should be, especially after what happened with Red Jacket. He wondered why her guard was not up. Granted, she wasn't a field agent, but she wasn't a fool either.

At the Round Tower, instead of turning right and heading toward Hojbro Plads where Malone's bookshop stood, she kept straight. After another three blocks, she disappeared inside the Hotel d'Angleterre.

He watched as she entered.

He was hurt that she was intent on purchasing a book in Denmark and had not asked him to assist. Clearly, she didn't want him involved. In fact, after what happened at the Round Tower, she apparently didn't even want to speak with him.

He glanced at his watch. A little after four thirty. The auction started at six PM, and Roskilde was half an hour's drive away. He'd not planned on attending. The catalog sent out weeks ago contained nothing of interest. But that was no longer the case. Stephanie was acting strange, even for her. And a familiar voice deep inside his head, one that had kept him alive through twelve years as a government operative, said she was going to need him.