Authors: Wolf Wootan
Tags: #thriller, #assassin, #murder, #international, #assassinations, #high tech, #spy adventure
Syd was amazed. “Quite an intricate maze!
Those ancient Italians really must have liked intrigue! What’s
behind this east wall?”
“More living quarters. The main hall is on
the outside on the east side, so the living quarters are in the
interior instead of the outside like the west side. I suppose they
designed the castle that way so the existence of this hidden
passageway would not be obvious. Close that door and we’ll go
downstairs on the south stairway—give you a feel of the place,”
replied Sara as she headed down the tunnel in the dim light.
When they reached the stairway, Sara switched
on a new set of lights, and switched off the set they had used in
“If you go up, you’ll eventually reach the
top of the tower and the gun room where you got the sniper rifle.
If we go down, we come out in the first floor main hall where it
enters the middle section of the castle—the hall which leads to the
servant’s quarters where Gina and her helpers live. Let’s go on
down,” explained Sara.
“Does Teresa live back there, too?”
“No. She just works here summers when she’s
out of school. She lives in one of the suites on the east wall of
the second floor.”
When they reached the ground floor, Syd
lifted the latch in the yellow circle and the door swung open,
admitting them to the main hallway. Sara switched off the lights
and closed the door behind them. Syd noticed that the shield on the
wall had a green cross on it.
“And here’s the hall leading to the courtyard
and the pool,” stated Sara. “Now let’s go back up and get our
Once at the pool, they spread towels on their
lounges and Syd settled into hers and began rubbing sun block on
her white skin areas. Sara stripped her bikini off and lay down on
her lounge naked, and also began rubbing on sun block. Syd stared
at her golden body—which showed no white skin—for a few seconds,
then averted her eyes. She had never felt comfortable around naked
women, especially when she was naked herself, since her high school
days when she had to have communal showers with her classmates
after PE. She picked up her book and began to read.
U.S. Embassy, Rome, Italy
Wednesday, August 15, 2001
The U.S. Embassy in Rome occupies a
classic building overlooking
, one of the main thoroughfares in Rome. The
street is lined with magnolia trees on the upper end and Western
Sycamores toward the lower end. The building was originally called,
and is still often referred to as, the
because it was a palace used by Queen Margherita, as well as both
the Boncompagni and Ludvisi princes. The three-story palace was
designed by the well-known Roman architect Gaetano Kock in the
nineteenth century. It had a neo-Renaissance style, much like the
palaces of Florence.
Carmelo’s CIA contact, Jack Bronson, led
Hatch and Carmelo into a large library on the second floor of the
palace. It was furnished with expensive antiques, and had the feel
of a room in an exclusive men’s club. Bronson had the clean-cut
look of an IBM salesman, right down to the blue suit.
Bronson said, with a beaming smile and a
mid-West accent, “It’s a real pleasure to meet you, Mr. Lincoln. I
was an economic analyst at Langley before I got this assignment and
Triple Eye sure made my job easier! Our intelligence has never been
better! The response time for special requests is phenomenal!”
“Thank you, Mr. Bronson. We like to serve,”
smiled Hatch. “I want to thank you for setting up this meeting. We
won’t take much of Dr. Brook’s time.”
Bronson smiled and replied, “No problem.
She’s free to talk to whomever she wishes. She just feels safer
here. I am curious as to why you want to speak to her.”
Hatch looked at Carmelo, who shrugged, as if
to say, “It’s your call.” Hatch decided honesty might be the best
approach, and might even encourage Bronson to reciprocate.
“One of Triple Eye’s agents was
murdered along with Dr. Holcomb, as you no doubt know. We are
interested in seeing his murderers caught and punished. The police
have been uncooperative, saying that SISDE took over the case. That
action in itself raises
curiosity. I thought Dr. Brooks could give us some insight
into what she and Holcomb found in that dig that would cause
Holcomb to be killed. What our agent went to buy—possibly—was a
copy of a letter. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would
Bronson smiled again, shook his head, and
said, “Of course not. You’ll have to discuss that with Dr. Brooks.
I’ll go bring her in.”
Bronson left the room, and Carmelo put an
index finger to his lips, then pointed to the ceiling. The room was
obviously bugged, he was reminding Hatch. Hatch shrugged, knowing
this—probably video cameras as well. That did not bother him. What
Brooks would be allowed to say did bother him. This could be a
total waste of time.
Bronson returned with Dr. Brooks, a short
woman in her late thirties. She had a Dolly Parton body with Orphan
Annie’s face—large breasts, small waist, large round eyes, and red
fuzzy hair. She was dressed comfortably in a tan, knee-length shift
belted at the waist, and tan sandals with short heels.
Bronson introduced everyone, but made no move
to leave. Carmelo and Hatch sat on a comfortable, brocaded settee
from the nineteenth century, and Helen Brooks sat in a wing chair
on the opposite side of the delicate coffee table. She crossed her
legs and smoothed her dress. Bronson stood to her left, his right
hand on the back of her chair.
Hatch explained what information they were
after, and why. Brooks’ eyes moistened at the mention of Holcomb’s
name. She daubed at them with a tissue she retrieved from her small
“Excuse me, gentlemen. I still can’t believe
what happened, or why,” she whimpered.
“Perhaps you can help bring the killers to
justice, Dr. Brooks,” said Hatch soothingly.
“Please call me Helen. I’ll help anyway that
I can,” she replied, glancing at Bronson.
“Can you tell us what the letter is all
about?” asked Hatch.
She did not even look at Bronson when
she answered, “Yes. It was written in the middle of the last
century by a man claiming that the Prince of Monterra is a fraud.
The man’s son was swapped for the Prince’s daughter, so the
bloodline does not ensue from the
. There is a treaty prohibiting that. This could
cause great political problems in Monterra.”
“Thank you, Helen. We are also trying to
establish how the killers found out about the letter,” explained
Hatch. “It had to be from you or Dr. Holcomb, or from someone else
at the dig site. Can you tell me, Helen, who else at the site knew
about your discovery?”
Helen looked at Bronson again, her round eyes
widening even more, as she said, “There are two people at the site,
as a rule. The Italian government keeps a man onsite to watch what
we do—for obvious reasons. We have one dig assistant to help mark
finds on the grid maps—date, location, description. We didn’t
specifically tell either of them about the contents of the Carfagno
letter. It only has significance if you are very knowledgeable
about Italian history.”
“Did you and Dr. Holcomb discuss its
significance in front of those two?” asked Carmelo.
“No. We discussed it in our site trailer.
That was when Hal decided to copy the letter and see if he could
sell the information to Triple Eye. We had done it before,” Helen
answered, looking at the floor.
The Italian government guy
is obviously a SISDE agent, but who is the other guy? SISDE could
have the trailer bugged, and maybe the other guy could hear through
the trailer walls. He must be the one selling info to Bocca’s
people—or he could actually be a catenari
“Could you give us those two people’s names?
Maybe we could talk to them,” Hatch said as Bronson frowned.
“Sure. The government man is Aielo Viello and
our helper is Ricco Sale.”
Carmelo wrote the names in his small, spiral
notebook. Hatch thought he would try one more question, though he
knew the answer already.
“Would it be possible for us to see the
letter that has caused so much trouble?”
“I’m afraid I don’t have it. I gave it to my
Hatch looked at Bronson and smiled, and got a
wan smile in return. He was now certain that the CIA had the
original, and since they had Helen, they knew the impact the letter
could have on Italian and Monterran politics. The wheels were
probably grinding in Langley, maybe even the State Department.
“Well, I thank you for your time, Helen,”
smiled Hatch, rising.
She rose and took his outstretched hand,
saying, “I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help. I do want those
“You have given us a great deal of help—more
than you know. Thank you, again” replied Hatch.
Dr. Helen Brooks left the room and Hatch
turned to Bronson and asked, “Does the Company have any intent to
find these killers?”
“Not in our charter,” laughed Bronson. “It’s
an Italian problem.”
“That’s not what I asked, Bronson. Remember,
I was in the Company way back when. There are no boundaries they
won’t cross if they think it’s in their best interest.”
“That’s a little harsh! I don’t know
how we would find them if we wanted to,” Bronson responded with a
know who they
are? You’re Mr. Intelligence.”
“I just thought—considering the political
ramifications looming on the horizon—that someone at the top might
be wondering who is willing to kill for a peek at that letter.”
Bronson frowned, as if he had not considered
that complication before.
“Do you know something we should know?” he
asked as his frown deepened.
“Not in your charter!” grinned Hatch. “Maybe
you should stay out of it. Why don’t you escort us out now, Mr.
Bronson escorted them to the front entrance,
which had four large columns reaching to the second floor.
“Why don’t you step outside while I have a
cigarette and call for my ride, Jack?” suggested Hatch to
While Carmelo used his Blue Phone to call
their driver, Hatch lit a cigarette and exhaled a cloud of smoke
toward the second floor. With his lips hardly moving, he said to
Jack Bronson, “I wanted to get us out of that bugged room.”
“Why, there was no …”
“Don’t fuck with me, Jack. Can anyone hear us
out here?” Hatch snorted while holding his cigarette in front of
“No, Mr. Lincoln. There are no mikes out
here, just surveillance cameras recording who comes and goes,”
“Let’s take a walk down the block. I don’t
want any lip readers analyzing that tape.”
They walked down a half block, then Hatch
said, “I’ll trade you info. If what I give you helps in any way,
you can take full credit for it. If I’d have given you anything in
that room, you couldn’t have.”
“What makes you think I’m looking for brownie
points?” growled Bronson, frowning.
“Because, that’s the way the system works,
Jack. Do you want to trade?”
“Sure. What do you have?”
“You first. Has the Italian government made
any move to act on the Carfagno letter yet?” asked Hatch.
Bronson hesitated, then replied, “Yes. Their
U.N. Ambassador paid a courtesy call on the Secretary of State two
days ago in Washington. Testing the waters, so to speak. The
Italians intend to take the situation to the International Court of
Justice at The Hague for resolution. They want Monterra and its
fantastic economy back under the Italian flag.”
Hatch stroked his beard and took another drag
on his cigarette, then remarked, “I wouldn’t think the ICJ would
have jurisdiction over something like this. I thought the treaty
had to have a clause in it saying that both parties agreed to using
the Court for problem resolution. I know the treaty in question
here doesn’t have such a clause.”
Bronson peered carefully at Hatch, realizing
Hatch knew a great deal about the situation. Then he said, “You are
very good, Mr. Lincoln! It’s true that both parties must accept the
jurisdiction of the Court by submitting a declaration. Some
sixty-three nations have declarations in force at the present time,
although some have certain categories of dispute excluded. Both
Italy and Monterra have submitted declarations in the past.”
treaty could be argued to be outside
the Court’s jurisdiction by Monterra,” mused Hatch.
“Yes, they could argue that, but in
cases of doubt as to whether the Court
jurisdiction, the Court itself makes the
decision. So, if Italy submits this to the Court, Monterra may be
in the position of having to disprove Italy’s case before the
Court,” explained Bronson.
“But the Italians don’t have the original
letter for authenticity testing, do they?” said Carmelo.
“No. That’s what they’re after,” replied
Bronson. “I don’t know what State is going to do about that,
“Thanks for your candor, Jack,” said Hatch.
“Now, listen carefully. There is another player in the game you
people should be aware of.”
“Here’s how you get credit for digging up
this information. Go do a genealogy trace on Carfagno’s daughter,
who in reality—if the letter is not a hoax—is a di Conti by blood.
Follow her bloodline to the present time and you will find someone
who may claim to be the true Prince of Monterra,” explained