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.Over the last several hours, D’Agosta had read everything on the table two and, in some cases, three times.After Diogenes had severed his connection with the Pendergast clan following the death of his mother and father, he had gone largely into hiding.For almost a year, there was no word at all.Then a letter arrived from a family lawyer, asking that a sum of $100,000 be wired to a Zurich bank for Diogenes’s benefit.This was followed a year later by another, similar letter, demanding that $250,000 be wired to a bank in Heidelberg.The family rejected this second request, and it prompted a response from Diogenes.That letter now sat on the table, sealed between two panels of clear Lucite.D’Agosta glanced once again at the spidery, meticulous script, so curiously inappropriate for a boy of seventeen.There was no date or location, and it was addressed to Pendergast:Ave, frater—I find it disagreeable to write you on this subject, or any other for that matter.But you force my hand.For I have no doubt you are the one behind the denial of my request for funds.I need not remind you I will come into my inheritance in a few years.Until that time I shall now and then require certain trifling sums such as I requested last month.You will find it in your best interests, and in the best interests of others you may or may not know, to honor such requests.I should have thought our final discussion in Baton Rouge would have made that clear.I am very much preoccupied at present with various lines of research and study and have no time to earn money in the conventional manner.If forced to do so, I will obtain the funds I need—in a manner amusing to myself.If you do not wish to see my attentions diverted in this way, you will honor my request with all haste.The next time I write you, it shall be on a matter of my own choosing, not yours.I will not bring this up again.Good-bye, brother.And bonne chance.D’Agosta put the letter aside.Records showed that the money was promptly sent.The following year, a similar sum was wired to a bank in Threadneedle Street, London.A year later, another sum was sent to a bank in Kent.Diogenes surfaced briefly on his twenty-first birthday to claim his inheritance—eighty-seven million dollars.Two months later, he was reported to have been killed in an automobile accident in Canterbury High Street.Burned beyond recognition.The inheritance was never found.D’Agosta turned the bogus death certificate over in his hands.I am very much preoccupied at present with various lines of research and study.But what, exactly? Diogenes certainly didn’t say, and his brother was silent on the matter.Or almost silent.D’Agosta let his eye fall on a pile of news clippings.They had been taken from a variety of foreign magazines and newspapers.Each had been labeled with an attribution and a date, and those in foreign languages had translations attached—once again, Pendergast thinking ahead.Most of these clippings dealt with unsolved crimes.There was an entire family in Lisbon, killed by botulism, yet without any trace of food found in their stomachs.A chemist at the University of Paris, Sorbonne, was discovered with radial arteries of both wrists severed and the body carefully exsanguinated.Yet there was no blood at the murder scene.Files on several of the chemist’s experiments were found to be missing.Additional clippings described still other deaths, more grisly, in which the corpses seemed to have been victims of various tortures or experimentation—the bodies were too badly damaged to be certain.And yet other clippings were mere obituaries.There seemed to be no logic or pattern to the deaths, and Pendergast did not leave any commentary on what it was that he had found interesting.D’Agosta picked up the pile, riffled through it.There was a variety of thefts, too.A pharmaceutical manufacturing company, reporting the robbery of a freezer full of experimental drugs.A collection of diamonds mysteriously vanished from a vault in Israel.A rare, fist-sized piece of amber containing a leaf from a long-extinct plant, lifted from a wealthy couple’s apartment in Paris.A unique, polished T.rex coprolite, dating precisely from the K-T boundary.He replaced the clippings on the table with a sigh.Next his eye fell on a small sheaf of papers from Sandringham, a private school in the south of England that Diogenes attended—unknown to his family—to finish out his last year of upper school.He had managed to get himself accepted on the strength of several forged documents and a phony set of parents hired for the occasion.Despite a first-semester report card putting him in the first of every form, he was expelled a few months later.Judging from the paperwork, the school gave no reason for the expulsion and responded to Pendergast’s queries with evasion, even agitation.Other papers showed that Pendergast had contacted a certain Brian Cooper on several occasions—Cooper had briefly been the roommate of Diogenes at Sandringham—but it seemed the boy refused to respond.A final letter from the youth’s parents said Brian had been placed in an institution, where he was being treated for acute catatonia.Following the expulsion, Diogenes slipped completely out of view for more than two years.And then he had surfaced to claim his inheritance.Four months later, he staged his own death in Canterbury.After that, silence.No—that wasn’t quite true.There was one final communication.D’Agosta turned toward a folded sheet of heavy linen paper, sitting alone at one corner of the table.He reached for it, opened it thoughtfully.At the top was an embossed coat of arms, a lidless eye over two moons, a lion crouched beneath.And at the very center of the sheet was a date, written in violet ink with what D’Agosta now recognized as Diogenes’s handwriting: January 28.Inexorably, D’Agosta’s mind returned once again to the October day when he’d first held the letter—here, in this room, on the eve of their departure to Italy.Pendergast had shown it to him and spoken briefly of Diogenes’s plan to commit the perfect crime.But D’Agosta had returned from Italy alone.And now it was up to him—and nobody else—to follow through for his dead partner, to stop the crime that presumably would occur on January 28.Less than a week away.He felt a rising panic; there was so little time left.The roommate at Sandringham: now, there was a lead.He’d call the parents tomorrow, see if the boy was talking.Even if he struck out there, undoubtedly there were other boys at the school who had known Diogenes.D’Agosta folded the paper carefully and returned it to the table.Beside it lay a single black-and-white photograph, scuffed and creased with age.He picked it up, held it to the light.A man, a woman, and two young boys, standing before an elaborate wrought-iron railing.An imposing mansion could be seen in the middle distance.It was a warm day: the boys were in shorts, and the woman wore a summer dress.The man stared at the camera with a patrician face [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]