Authors: Rob Swigart
Tags: #Mystery, #Delphic Oracle, #men’s adventure, #archaeology thriller, #Inquisition, #Paris, #international thriller, #suspense, #action adventure, #papyrology, #historical thriller, #mystery historical, #Catholic church, #thriller
“Bold and brassy … breathless romp with prose that crackles like a live wire, bites like a rabid dog, [and] smooths like 30-year-old Scotch.”
—San Francisco Review of Books
Swigart is one of the few thriller writers with a poetic sense…(who) knows how to give high velocity to an action mystery.
—San Francisco Chronicle
The Thriller in Paradise Series:
As Well As:
A.K.A./A COSMIC FABLE
THE TIME TRIP
THE BOOK OF REVELATIONS
THE DELPHI AGENDA
New Orleans, La.
The Delphi Agenda
Copyright 2012 by Rob Swigart
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
First booksBnimble Publishing electronic publication: November, 2012
eBook editions by eBooks by Barb for
Prudence is the knowledge of what is good, what is bad, and what is neutral. Its parts are memory, intelligence, and foresight (
). Memory is how the mind recalls what has been; intelligence is how it ascertains what is; foresight is that by which something is seen before it has occurred.
Make two into one, inside like outside, outside like inside, above like below. Make male and female into one, so male is not male nor female female.
—Gospel of Thomas
Urged on by the buzzing boarding signal, Lisa Emmer, clutching her elbow against her shoulder bag, hurried up the last steps at the elevated Corvisart Metro station and stepped into the first car. The doors had begun to close when someone seized her arm and pulled her back to the platform. Only after the train had started to pull away did she turn. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
But already she knew. The dread came back as if it had never left.
“Mademoiselle Emmer? Would you come with us, please?” His English was lightly accented but unmistakably Parisian. He pronounced her name in the French way, with an accent over the initial “e”. It sounded like the verb
, to love.
“Who is us?” she demanded. “And why should I?”
He smiled politely, showing even teeth. Behind him stood two others with nearly identical gray suits and attentive posture. “I’m so sorry, please excuse me,” he said. “I have been impolite. I am Captain Hugo of the Paris Police.” He allowed her to examine his identification.
.” She was pushing the fear away. She didn’t want to know what had happened, though tendrils of dread were growing like some kind of vine through her viscera.
“Ah. Am I under arrest, Captain Hugo? Am I accused of a crime?”
“Ah, no, no, Mademoiselle, not at all.”
“Am I suspected of being involved in a crime?”
“Well, I am on my way to a meeting, a meeting that is very important to me. So if I am not a suspect or under arrest, I must insist that I catch the next train.”
“I’m sorry, Mademoiselle.”
“You detain me? I must ask why.”
“We require your assistance, a matter of importance.”
She snapped her gaping mouth shut, feeling like a fool. This too helped push the dread back into the shadows. “The Préfecture de Police needs my help? How is this possible? It says on your identification that you are from the Police Judiciaire, which as I understand it means you investigate crimes. You don’t work on traffic accidents, and anyway I don’t have a car. I study old writing, mostly Greek, Captain, from third and fourth century Egypt. True, we’ve uncovered a few crimes over the years, but they happened almost two thousand years ago and I think the statute of limitations must have run out…” She was thirty-two years old, an American living in Paris, an ordinary person.
Captain Hugo did not smile at her attempted pleasantry. “Please, Mademoiselle, this is a grave matter, not to be taken lightly.”
She bit her lip. The meeting with the Fondation Roullot at the Tour Montparnasse would have to wait, though missing it might damage chances of renewing her grant. And the view of Paris from their offices…. “May I ask what it’s about that I require the intervention of someone of your rank in the Paris Police?”
The policeman did smile this time. “You are acquainted with our organization, I see. You are also acquainted with Raimond Foix.”
Here it was, what she had feared most. “Yes. What of it? Has something happened?”
She looked up and down the deserted platform. In each direction she could see the green canopy of the trees along the Boulevard Auguste-Blanqui. The sky was a faultless morning blue, though rain was forecast for later in the day. Rain was
forecast for later in the day. It was summer in Paris, and the rain seldom showed up.
It was impossible.
could have happened to Raimond. He was as enduring as the pyramids. She had sat transfixed through his amazing lectures on Hesiod, Greek mythology and religion. He had taught her the language, history and philosophy of the ancient world. He had spoken of other things, too – the development of the early Christian church and its conflicts with Manicheans and Gnostics, the Crusades, the many turning points in human history, beginning, she remembered then with an inward smile, the origins of butchery and eating meat two and a half million years ago. He had once suggested, she had assumed jokingly, that there had always been, beneath the stream of human history, a hidden, titanic, even epic struggle between two opposing views of the world.
He was her mentor, and more. He was her friend.
Captain Hugo cleared his throat. “I’m afraid so, Mademoiselle. Professor Foix is dead.”
“Dead?” The leaves seemed to acquire a strange quality, as if the color had drained away. A train screeched around the bend from the Glacière station and stopped on the opposite quay. People got off, two or three others hurried up the steps and got on. The train departed and once more both quays were empty. Somehow her bag, with the precious manila envelope containing her grant application, dropped to the platform. She bent to retrieve it.
“What happened?” she said, straightening.
“That is what we are trying to determine, Mademoiselle Emmer.”
“He was assassinated, Mademoiselle.”
“That’s impossible. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. He was an old man, completely harmless. Who would kill him?” She realized with a start she had already spoken of him in the past tense, as if she half expected this.
“Please, Mademoiselle. We have a car.”
She nodded numbly and followed them down the stairs.
It was Foix who had rescued her from a life of vapid consumption, the life toward which she had been speeding like an arrow, from middle school in the suburbs of Chicago to university in California. One fine fall day in her freshman year she was at the door to the gymnasium for her first practice on the cheerleading team. After all, what else was a homecoming queen supposed to do, even if the high school was in a small suburban Illinois town? It was a natural progression. She was a decent athlete, a cheerful if somewhat shy girl, not small, but compact, with blonde hair and a small dimple on her left cheek she hated. She thought it made her look lopsided. She was unaware of her considerable grace when in motion, but Captain Hugo was not. She had tried hard to know the right brands, wear the right clothes, say the right things, think the right thoughts. It was her way of fitting in, of being like everyone else, a disguise she had perfected through years of effort.
And then it was all blown away like the last remnants of morning fog. She was reaching for the handle when a voice behind her said, “You can do better than that.”
Professor Foix was already old, but his cornflower eyes twinkled in their nest of wrinkles. His look was quizzical.
“I beg your pardon?” She started to open the door.
His eyes sparkled like fragments of ice, but the smile that broke over his face was the warmest thing she’d ever seen. “You’re not going to be a cheerleader.” He shook his head and his long, wispy white hair floated like en exotic pale seaweed. “That’s not for you, empty posturing for ephemeral sport.”
She was polite. “What do you suggest?”
He laid a finger alongside his nose. “Ah.” He lowered it to point at her, and looking suddenly serious said, “You can study with me.”
“And you will teach me what, exactly?”
“Life!” He gestured expansively. “I will teach you life. Plato, of course, and Homer, and Thucydides. And Hesiod. But above all, life. How could you go wrong?”
“You can’t be serious,” she said, pulling the door open.
“You had both chicken pox and delayed menarche, possibly from excessive sports. As a child and adolescent you sang contralto in a choral group. You like Indian food, crossword puzzles and dry white wine. You don’t believe in astrology. You have a destiny and it is not on some sports field, marriage to a handsome but bland man, charity. That’s your mother’s life, not yours.”
She let go of the door. He was right; she
She had never looked back.
She had always suspected it, but only at that moment, at six minutes past eight on a Friday morning in June, when the unmarked police car started to pull away from the metro station and the horn began squawking, did she know with certainty that her first encounter with Raimond Foix had not happened by chance.
Under a morning sky heavy with swollen gray cloud a dark panel truck wound up a narrow dirt road through a tunnel of dense forest. On the side of the truck in darker gray were the letters A G O N.
A stone cabin appeared in a constricted clearing. The van stopped in front. The engine switched off and the driver climbed out with a grunt. His thick neck sloped up to a close-cropped gray head, which he rolled back and forth a couple of times, as though to relieve tension.
He went to the passenger door and opened it. The assassin crossed the gravel to the cabin door, which swung open. She paused at the threshold before walking inside. The door swung closed, shutting out the night.
It was more cell than room: walls of gray stone, flagstone floor, dark, heavy beams supporting the ceiling. There were no windows. There was a toilet and sink in one corner, a cot bolted to the wall, a table, a mirror, and a chair. A large crucifix on the west wall depicted a skeletal, tormented Jesus in exquisite, if macabre, detail. His lips were pulled back in agony as if He were straining to take one more labored breath. The bare, low-wattage bulb cast deep shadow beneath the table.
She leaned against the table for a moment before turning to the cross. The van’s engine started up. The sound was faint through the thick stone of the walls. Tires ground on the gravel and quickly faded away, leaving silence.