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Two Graves



Доступ к книге ограничен фрагменом по требованию правообладателя.

Lincoln Child dedicates this book to his daughter, Veronica. Douglas Preston dedicates this book to Forrest Fenn.

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.



6:00 PM

THE WOMAN WITH THE VIOLET EYES WALKED SLOWLY beneath the trees of Central Park, hands deep in the pockets of her trench coat. Her older brother walked beside her, his restless eyes taking in everything.

“What time is it?” she asked, yet again.

“Six o’clock precisely.”

It was a mild evening in mid-November, and the dying sun threw dappled shadows over the sweeping lawn. They crossed East Drive, passed the statue of Hans Christian Andersen, and ascended a slight rise. And then—as if possessed by the same thought—they stopped. Ahead, across the placid surface of Conservatory Water, stood the Kerbs Memorial Boathouse, toy-like, framed against the vast ramparts of the buildings lining Fifth Avenue. It was a scene from a picture postcard: the small lake reflecting the blood-orange sky, the little model yachts cutting through the still water to the appreciative cries of children. In the gap between two skyscrapers, a full moon was just appearing.

Her throat felt tight and dry, and the necklace of freshwater pearls felt constricting around her throat. “Judson,” she said, “I’m not sure I can do this.”

She felt his brotherly grip on her arm tighten reassuringly. “It’ll be okay.”

She glanced around at the tableau spread before her, heart beating fast. A violinist was sawing away on the parapet before the lake. A young couple sat on one of the boathouse benches, oblivious to everything but each other’s company. On the next bench, a short-haired man with a bodybuilder’s physique read the Wall Street Journal. Commuters and joggers passed by in small streams. In the shadow of the boathouse itself, a homeless man was settling down for the night.

And there he stood before the lake—a slender figure, motionless, dressed in a long pale coat of exquisite cut, blond-white hair burnished platinum by the dying light.

The woman drew in a sharp breath.

“Go ahead,” Judson said in a low voice. “I’ll be close by.” He released her arm.

As the woman stepped forward, her surroundings vanished, her entire attention focused on the man who watched her approach. Thousands of times she had imagined this moment, spun it out in her mind in all its many variants, always ending with the bitter thought that it could never happen; that it would remain only a dream. And yet here he was. He looked older, but not by much: his alabaster skin, his fine patrician features, his glittering eyes that held her own so intently, awakened a storm of feeling and memory and—even at this time of extreme danger—desire.

She stopped a few feet from him.

“Is it really you?” he asked, his courtly southern drawl freighted with emotion.

She tried to smile. “I’m sorry, Aloysius. So very sorry.”

He did not reply. Now, all these years later, she found herself unable to read the thoughts that lay behind those silver eyes. What was he feeling: Betrayal? Resentment? Love?

A narrow scar, freshly made, ran down one of his cheeks. She raised a fingertip, touched it lightly. Then, impulsively, she pointed over his shoulder.

“Look,” she whispered. “After all these years, we still have the moonrise.”

His glance followed hers, over the Fifth Avenue skyline. The buttery full moon rose between the stately buildings, perfectly framed against a pearlescent pink sky that graded upward into deep, cool violet. His frame shuddered. When he looked back at her, a new expression was on his face.

“Helen,” he whispered. “My God. I thought you were dead.”

Wordlessly, she slipped a hand through his arm and—without giving it conscious thought—began to walk around the lake.

“Judson says you’re going to take me away from… from all this,” she said.

“Yes. We’ll return to my apartment at the Dakota. And from there, we’ll head to—” He paused. “The less said about that, the better. Suffice to say, where we’re going, you’ll have nothing to fear.”

She tightened her grip on his arm. “Nothing to fear. You have no idea how good that sounds.”

“It’s time to recover your life.” He reached into the pocket of his jacket, drew out a gold ring set with a large star sapphire. “So let’s start at the beginning. Do you recognize this?”

She flushed as she looked at it. “I never thought I’d see it again.”

“And I never thought I’d get the chance to replace it on your finger. That is, not until Judson told me you were still alive. I knew, I knew, he was telling the truth—even when nobody else believed me.”

He reached over, caught her left forearm lightly, lifting it as if to place the ring on her finger. His eyes widened as he took in the stump of her wrist, a scar running along its upper edge.

“I see,” he said simply. “Of course.”

It was as if the careful, diplomatic dance they had been engaged in suddenly ended. “Helen,” he said, his tone now with an edge. “Why did you go along with this horrific scheme? Why did you conceal so many things from me? Why haven’t you—”

“Let’s please not talk about that,” she interrupted quickly. “There were reasons for everything. It’s a terrible story, a terrible story. I will tell it to you—all of it. But this is not the time or place. Now, please—place the ring on my finger and let’s leave.”

She raised her right hand, and he slid on the ring. As he did so, she watched his gaze move past her, to the scene beyond.

Suddenly he stiffened. For just a moment he stood there, her hand still in his. Then, with apparent calm, he turned toward the spot where her brother was standing and gestured for him to join them.

“Judson,” she heard him murmur. “Take Helen and get her away from here. Do it calmly but quickly.”

The fear that had just started to recede spiked hard in her breast. “Aloysius, what—”

But he cut her off with a brief shake of his head. “Take her to the Dakota,” he told Judson. “I’ll meet up with you there. Please go. Now.

Judson took her hand and began walking away, almost as if he had anticipated this.

“What is it?” she asked him. No reply.

She looked over her shoulder. To her horror, she saw that Pendergast had a pistol out and was pointing it at one of the model yachtsmen. “Stand up,” he was saying. “Keep your hands where I can see them.”

“Judson—” she began again.

His only response was to quicken his stride, pulling her along.

Suddenly a shot rang out behind them. “Run!” Pendergast cried.

In an instant the tranquil scene fell into pandemonium. People scattered amid screams. Judson yanked her harder, and they broke into a run.

A stutter of automatic weapons fire cut through the air. Judson’s hand jerked away from her own, and he fell.

At first she thought he had tripped. Then she saw the blood gushing from his jacket.

“Judson!” she cried out, halting and bending over him.

He lay on his side, looking up at her, twisting in pain, his mouth trying to work. “Keep running,” he gasped. “Keep—”

Another clatter of the automatic weapon, another line of whistling death drawn through the grass as bullets thudded into the earth, and Judson was hit again, the impact flipping him over onto his back.

No!” Helen screamed, leaping away.

The chaos swelled: screams, the crack of gunfire, the tread of fleeing people. Helen was aware of none of it. She fell to her knees, staring in horror at his open but unseeing eyes.

“Judson!” she cried. “Judson!

A few seconds may have passed, or more—she had no way of knowing—and then she heard Pendergast calling her name. She looked up. He was running toward her, his pistol drawn, firing to one side.

“Fifth Avenue!” he cried. “Run to Fifth Avenue—!”

Another gunshot rang out, and he, too, was knocked to the ground. This second shock roused her. She leapt to her feet, her trench coat wet with her brother’s blood. Aloysius was still alive and had managed to get back on his feet, taking cover behind a bench, continuing to fire at the couple who, just moments before, had apparently been interested only in making out.

He’s covering my escape.

Wheeling around, she took off at top speed. She’d get to Fifth Avenue, lose the gunmen in the teeming crowds, then make her way to the Dakota, meet up with him there… Her panicked thoughts were interrupted by another fusillade of shots, more screaming of panicked people.

Helen ran on, hard. The avenue lay ahead, beyond the stone gates of the park. Just fifty feet to go…

“Helen!” She heard Pendergast’s distant cry. “Look out! To your left!”

She glanced left. Under the darkness of the trees, she could see two men in jogging outfits, sprinting directly for her.

She swerved away, toward a grove of sycamores off the main path. She glanced over her shoulder again. The joggers were following—and they were gaining fast.

More shots rang out. She redoubled her efforts, but the heels of her shoes kept sinking into the soft earth, slowing her down. Then she felt a terrific impact against her back and was thrown to the ground. Someone grasped the neck of her trench coat and hauled her roughly to her feet. She struggled, crying out, but the two men pinned her arms and began dragging her toward the avenue. With horror, she recognized their faces.


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