“That may be true, but why should you have to?” Raz asked.
“Where there’s that,” Alex said with a sigh.
“They chose to come on this trip,” Raz said. “They aren’t here because it’s their team. They are here by choice. They need to tell us what they know.”
“They get up now,” Alex said with a nod.
There was a tap on the kitchen door. Raz turned to see Pierre Semaines standing outside the door.
“I apologize,” Pierre said in French. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop I was just …”
“It’s okay,” Alex replied in French.
Pierre heard her words and looked puzzled. It took him a moment to realize that he’d spoken in French. He looked at Raz, who was looking at Alex.
“We can take you to your room,” Alex said, continuing in French. “We just have to …”
“Wake Patrick and Bernie,” Pierre said with a nod. “Yes, that is what I heard. I’m afraid that I need to be a part of that conversation.”
Alex and Raz became very still as they turned to look at him.
“We are three parts to one puzzle,” Pierre said. “I hold a piece. They each hold a piece.”
When neither Alex nor Raz said anything, Pierre nodded.
“I doubt they know that,” Pierre said. “But my guess is that they do know that their information will bring about peril to everyone. That is likely why they are here.”
“And Seth?” Raz asked.
“Seth O’Malley knows things. No one knows if he’s psychic or if Delphie keeps him informed,” Pierre said with a shrug. “He knows an incredible number of people who know to call with information. That’s just as likely as anything else. There are stories about him and Mitch from Vietnam.”
“And you know those because …” Alex said, mildly.
“Michael Scully used to talk about him,” Pierre said with a nod.
“MJ’s father,” Alex said to Raz. “They lived next door to each other before …”
Raz nodded. He smiled at her attempt at not saying, “Everyone died.”
“It is also likely that he knows his father has some information,” Pierre said. “He’s here to keep an eye on Bernie.”
“Let’s get them up,” Alex said.
Raz nodded in agreement.
“Sir, why don’t we move you to the living room?” Raz asked.
Raz picked up Pierre’s bag and indicated for Pierre to move through the kitchen. Raz caught Alex’s eye as he led Pierre into the living room. She smiled her thanks, and he nodded.
She took the back stairs up to the second floor of the house. She tapped on the door where Leena and Vince were staying. Leena answered the door.
“Can you wake Vince?” Alex asked.
“Has something happened?” Leena asked.
“We need some information from my father and Bernie,” Alex said.
“Good,” Leena said. “Can I help?”
“I need to wake everyone,” Alex said.
“I’ll get Vince and the rest of the team,” Leena said.
“I’ll focus on the old guys,” Alex said.
“Deal,” Leena said with a wide smile.
Alex gave her a quick nod and went to wake her father.
“You know, I have just that same question,” Alex said.
“You don’t know?” he asked, his voice rising with concern.
Alex shook her head.
“That’s not good,” he said.
“Exactly,” Alex said.
“Walk me through it,” Raz said. “We’re going to head to the mine today and …”
“Right,” Alex said. “That’s exactly it. We’re going to an old mine. We’re soldiers. We have gear and are easily able to defend ourselves. We have permission from the Polish government and the head of this region.”
“We checked in with the police yesterday,” Raz said.
“Every single thing is above board,” Raz said.
“Right,” Alex said. “So what possibly could be bothering me?”
Raz’s eyes flicked to her face.
“No idea,” Alex said.
“Is it animal?” Raz asked.
Alex shook her head.
“Mineral?” Raz asked.
“Human,” Alex said. “There’s something about this project that …”
“I was going to say that there’s something about this project that’s not right,” Alex said. “But what could be wrong? We have property rights. Hell, we have a key!”
“Okay,” Raz said. “Try this — Are we in danger?”
Alex didn’t respond.
“Physical injury?” he asked. She paused for a moment before shaking her head.
“Disease?” he asked. She shook her head.
“Ideological?” he asked. She shook her head.
“Mental illness?” he asked. She shook her head.
“The only one you paused on was physical injury,” Raz said. “You think there will be …”
“I don’t know,” Alex said.
“Brainstorm with me,” Raz said.
“Booby traps,” Alex said. “That’s a no brainer. But we have Dusty who does all of those Spartan races. He’ll see a booby trap mile away.”
“You have a particularly good eye for that kind of thing,” Raz said.
Alex scowled in agreement.
“What else?” Raz asked.
Sighing, Alex went back to tapping her pencil against the table. Raz had nearly given up on her saying anything else when she looked at him.
“It’s my father, Seth and his father, Ben,” Alex said.
“And Pierre?” Raz asked.
“What about them?” Raz asked.
“It just seems like …” Alex said. She stopped talking for a moment and then drew a deep breath. “There’s something about this that my father and Bernie’s father aren’t telling us. Pierre.”
“Something?” Raz asked.
“No idea,” Alex said with a shake of her head.
“And it could put us in danger?” Raz asked.
“Then we get them up,” Raz said. He rose from the table. “Right now.”
“Wha …?” Alex started.
“I won’t have your life endangered by secrets,” Raz said. “I won’t tolerate mine endangered by secrets.”
“I will protect you,” Alex said.
“That may be true, but why should you have to?” Raz asked.
Acting “Sergeant” Alex Hargreaves sat at the battered circa 1940s Formica table in the kitchen of the farmhouse they’d rented in Southern Poland. She had a yellow lead pencil in her hand and a white lined pad in front of her. She’d been sitting there, tapping the eraser end of her pencil on the pad, for nearly an hour. Her eyes were focused on the winter emptied farmland that lay beyond the window in front of her, but her mind was miles away.
Feeling movement, she looked up. Her partner, Arthur “Raz” Rasmussen, came toward her through the kitchen. She smiled at him.
“I was looking for you,” he said.
“Sorry,” Alex said. “Just had to think some things through.”
He took in the pad of paper, the tapping pencil, and the vague look on her face.
“I’ll make coffee,” he said.
She squinted at him as if she was trying to understand what he’d said. She nodded and went back to staring out the window. Some minutes later, a cup appeared near her right hand. Raz sat down on her left. He slid the pad over to him, and she took a drink of her coffee.
“Leena, Vince, Troy, Margaret, Matthew, Joseph, Zack, Cliff, Dusty, Royce,” he read. He raised his eyebrows and continued, “Old guy contingent — Seth, Bernie, Ben, Patrick, and Pierre.”
He set the pad down.
“Pierre?” Raz asked.
“You remember Nelson Weeks?” Alex said.
“I do,” Raz said.
“Seems his father is now the head of the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Soloman,” Alex said.
“The Knights Templar,” Raz said. “How did he get that honor?”
“Born into it,” Alex said. “His family is or was the weapons master. Nelson’s mom is the heir apparent. Since she’s dead, it falls to Pierre.”
“Nelson’s mom was heir apparent to an ancient order who’s members are supposedly all killed in the 13th century,” Raz said, his voice laced with disbelief.
“And Pierre?” Raz asked. “Is this something he’s always been or did it just happen?”
“He got this ‘honor’ when most of the order was killed in Arizona,” Alex said. “He’s the last ranking member alive.”
“You think that was intentional?” Raz asked before taking a long drink of his coffee.
Alex waited for him to finish his drink before saying, “No.”
“Why is he coming?” Raz asked.
“Turns out he’s kind of an expert on historic art, swords, and that kind of thing,” Alex said.
“You think the Templars have a claim in the mine?” Raz ask.
“Who knows?” Alex said.
She glanced at him and downed her coffee. She got up from her seat. She filled two water glasses and set one down in front of him. He drank it down. He nodded to her, and she drank her water. The team had a new initiative to become better hydrated. He gave her a soft smiled, and she grinned.
Maresol looked at Abi for a moment. She had the sense that something was going on, but she wasn’t sure what. She remembered something Delphie had told her.
“I wondered …” Maresol said.
“Yes?” Abi asked.
“Delphie told me to ask you about my son,” Maresol said. “She said that she is too close to the situation but that you might be able to figure it out.”
“Figure it out?” Abi asked.
“He is very angry with me,” Maresol said. “It started when he turned twenty.”
“So it’s been a while,” Abi said.
“I’m afraid that I will die and never know why he’s so angry with me,” Maresol said.
She sucked in a breath. She had no idea why she was telling this woman her deepest sorrow and her most horrible fear. It came out of her almost without much conscious thought. Maresol was relieved when Abi gave her a soft smile.
“How old was your husband when he died?” Abi asked.
“Twenty,” Maresol said. “See I thought it was that, but why is it my fault?”
“It’s not,” Abi said. “He’s not angry with you.”
“What do you mean he’s not angry with me?” Maresol shook head. “He …”
Abi nodded, and Maresol realized if she kept being defensive, she’d never learn what she wanted to know.
“He misses his dad?” Maresol asked.
“No,” Abi said. She sucked in a breath and hummed for a moment. She let out a breath. “When he calls, tell him that you are not angry with him.”
“When he …?” Maresol asked. She felt angry and unheard. “What are you talking about? Except for that time about his sister, and really that was Seth, he hasn’t spoken to me in nearly twenty years! He …”
Maresol’s cell phone rang. She turned it over, and it was her son’s phone number. Maresol looked at Abi, and Abi nodded.
“Hello,” Maresol said.
Abi watched while Maresol listened.
“No, son, I am not angry with you,” Maresol said. “Not ever. I have just felt confused and hurt because I love you and you withdrew from me. You wouldn’t let me love you.”
Abi winked at Maresol. While Maresol was distracted, Abi walked into Sandy’s room. She opened the door and found Sandy alone. Sandy’s eyes tracked Abi as she walked into the room.
“Jill tells me that your injuries are stubborn to healing,” Abi said.
“T’ m-ch,” Sandy said though her wired jaw.
“Yes, there’s a lot here,” Abi said. “How can I help?”
Sandy looked at Abi. Her eyebrows went up and down as she tried to work out what Abi was saying.