Reuniting with E, H, V after a month of rest. Too long. Getting restless. We have a job to do. I have a bargain to fulfill, to keep Mary safe. To maybe do something with what remains of my miserable life.
[note: various mental illnesses revealed: Emma is afflicted by homicidal mania; Vivian not only has a phobia of long shadows, but she also has a split personality—her old friend “Pal”, who died in the car crash described last time.]
Listen, old man. Stop pretending this is some memoir that people are going to read later. You don’t get to be remembered fondly. This isn’t a final case to polish your reputation or redeem your lost rank. Your life’s work was wasted and nothing will change that. All you can do, the best you can do, is this one job. And if you do it well, no one will know.
So stand up and do it.
I spend six weeks in Boston. Poring over some of the books left over.
• Seven Masks:
• Cults of the Aksumite Empire – stories of axumite beliefs that spread out to Europe. Myths of the Maw of the Mouth. References Revelations of Glaaki.
o Instructions for
JWR gets in touch. V wants to go to Malta. Apparently that’s in Italy. Which is on the way to Ethiopia, and Axum. We need to end up there, I think. Michael at the Globe says the architecture will be in amazing.
H has decided he cannot stay with us. Lucky bastard. But he didn’t need to make a bargain, did he?
Janet books us travel. On a zeppelin, of all things. Couldn’t just get us a boat, of course.
It’s enormous. Reporters all around, crowds watching. It’s like a train, hung under a balloon the size of…I don’t even know. A battleship.
It’s not terrible. But I’d rather take the train. Fewer Germans on the train, probably. All…German. Polite, but that sneering look. That machine-like phony courtesy. The long list of rules.
The travel is not pleasant. Over the water for far too long. And we feel the wind even more than when Frank was flying us.
Land in Leipzig after 4 days. Apparently we were lucky that we weren’t blown off our course.
Train through Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy. Down to the south of Italy. German trains are orderly, regimented, unsettling. Italian trains…anything but orderly. But at least they were on time.
Odd: Emma now keeping a diary. Very diligent, though she wasn’t before. Well. Everyone needs to cope in their own way. Maybe it’s what her headshrinker told her to do.
Boat to Malta. Finally, a place where people speak English again. Even the British accent seems almost familiar.
As Michael said, it is beautiful. Tiny little island, beautiful old buildings. A castle hundreds of years old, once used by Crusaders to fight the Turks. Could spend days wandering, sightseeing…if we didn’t have work to do.
Take a suite of rooms in a nice hotel overlooking the harbor. View of the harbor. V insisted we needed comfort, not discretion. Even though she’s the one who arranged to have dynamite, our guns delivered and waiting in a warehouse.
We’re here because of a clue about Montgomery Donovan, who has “bitter wisdom”.
City records office: Donovan’s property: harborview town house. Warehouse by the harbor. Yacht in the harbor. Of course he’s a rich man.
I chat up some cops. “Bobbies”, what nonsense. No trouble with drugs, really. Quiet, petty crime. No rumors of Nectar.
Valleta city library. Very little in records. So what, I learned this foreign jabber for nothing? Just a newspaper clipping that says he likes to donate to opera, and is married. Wife’s name Portia.
Librarian thinks photo taken by a Jerome Humphrey.
Go talk to the photographer. JH often working with local newspaper. Limey. Barely remembers Donovan. Says Donovan didn’t want his name in the paper, though wife wanted him to relax. Donovan seemed wound up.
We hire Humphrey to go take pictures of Donovan’s townhouse, warehouse, and yacht. He says we’ll have results in a week.
Trammel’s diary said that Donovan knew how to get more Nectar from a mouth, but that it had cost him, somehow.
Plans: V and E to go to the opera, swan about there, try to meet Portia Donovan and strike up a friendship. I plan to dig into the archives. Or library. Museum? This is an old city. Maybe there’s something else here.
Playing tourists. Stories of Atlantis, ancient magics. Hundreds of years of history. Stone carvings, ruins. Guides claim one chapter of the Knights of Malta are in hiding, waiting until the island needs them. But can’t find many details.
Arrange a tour to some stone age temples. Names even worse than normal Italian names. Sound like somebody gargling. Really old. Stones, rocks. Nothing promising. V finds some symbols, but nothing special. Just pagan scratchings.
Nothing in the old bookshops. Or city archives. Or museums.
No Nectar. No weirdness in the history or the old books.
Opera: matinee before new show officially opens. Opera House is beautiful. Magnficent. Almost understand why these people always gesturing so wildly when they speak. I’d wave my arms around if these buildings were what I lived around all the time.
Strike up conversation with an usher, first about the architecture, then Donovan.
He’s around town, or was. But hasn’t been at the opera for a long time. Same with Portia, who also hasn’t been to the opera.
The opera is…I don’t have words. I didn’t know foreign could sound so magical.
Leaving, V goes white as a sheet, panics, keeps talking about a shadow moving towards us? Seems surprised we didn’t see it.
Next day: Humphrey calls, done early. Meet him to pick up the photographs. Same café as before.
He says he couldn’t get close to the buildings. A lot of people at the townhouse. Brawny men. Standing guard? Saw a group of men leave the townhouse one day, but they saw him. Harborthe Elegance is anchored in the middle of the harbor. Doesn’t seem like anyone has been using it. Warehouse: pretty quiet. Couple of guards in the yard.
Pay him, he leaves. Couple dozen photos of townhouse, warehouse in its fenced yard, yacht. Townhouse photo: all curtains on lower three floors stay closed. Only 4th floor curtains open. A figure in windows in a couple of shots. Garage on lowest level, off of back street.
Yacht is…right in the middle of the shipping lanes. Just anchored there, right in the way. Waiting for a shipment?
Harbormaster: ask him about the yacht—he seems uncomfortable, he knows more than he’s letting on, and knows that something is wrong. He’s been bribed.
Donovan spends a lot of money to get no questions asked. Shipping things out of the harbor. How often? 1/week, freighters bound for Italy, sometimes Africa. The Thriceis is due to arrive in 3 days, then depart to France.
Planning: going to look at the warehouse. Then maybe sneaking out to the yacht—very suspicious that it’s there; freighters don’t stop, but have to detour around. What is Donovan doing with it?
Warehouse: boring. Modern and ugly L-shape. Large fenced gravel yard, parking. Loading dock out over the water. Quiet. One guard at gatehouse by fence. Wait and watch for an hour, from concealment. Another guard patrols the yard.
Sneak in now, with only two guards around? Not much nearby traffic.
V wanders up to the gate, looks distressed, starts flirting …but her charms have no effect. Sensible guy. Strange he’s stuck on guard duty.
As she walks back, old man with long beard approaches us all. Warns us about the den of evil. Gives us an address to meet him at dawn. Fountain of St George.