Valhalla Rising, p.36Clive Cussler
"Not in these books," said Pitt. "None of the pages look as if they'd been removed and replaced with blank pages. Your father must have hidden the original notebooks elsewhere."
"No doubt gathering dust in the lost laboratory you talk about," said Giordino, whose respect for Elmore Egan had dropped a couple of notches.
Kelly's lovely face was flushed with bewilderment, and her sapphire blue eyes seemed to be trying to see something that was not there. "Why would Dad do such things? I always remember a man who was so straight and honest he didn't have a devious Hone in his body."
"He must have had a good reason," Thomas said, in an attempt to comfort her.
Pitt looked down at her compassionately. "It's getting late. We're not going to solve anything tonight. I suggest we sleep on it and maybe we'll come up with some answers in the light of day."
No one gave him an argument. They were all dead tired. All, except Pitt. He was the last one to leave the library. He pretended to lock the door before he handed the key to Thomas. Later, when everyone was asleep, he quietly returned to the library and entered through the unlocked door. Then he turned on the lights and began searching through Egan's research material on the rune stones. A trail and a story began to emerge.
By four in the morning, he had found what he was looking for. Many answers still eluded him. But the mud in the water had cleared just enough for him to get a glimpse of the bottom. Happily satisfied, he fell asleep in one of the comfortable leather chairs, inhaling the quaint smell of the old books.
Giordino surprised everyone by making breakfast. Afterward, Pitt, tired and bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, dutifully called Sandecker and brought him up-to-date. The admiral had little to report on the investigation into Cerberus and mentioned in passing that Hiram Yaeger was mystified as to how Pitt had filled Egan's leather case with oil behind his back. Pitt was mystified, too, and couldn't fathom who was behind the trick.
Giordino joined Thomas, who had some work to do in the lab while Pitt and Kelly returned to the library. Kelly noticed the books and papers stacked on the rolltop desk. "Looks like a litde fairy was burning the midnight oil."
Pitt looked at her. "Believe you me, it was no fairy."
"Now I see why you look like the morning after," she said, smiling. She came over and gave him a light kiss on the cheek. "I thought you might have visited me last night instead of Dad's library."
Pitt started to say "business before pleasure," but thought better of it. "I'm not good at romancing women when my mind is a million miles away."
"Back a thousand years in time," she added, studying the open Viking books on the desk. "What were you after?"
"You said your Dad traveled around the country and translated thirty-five rune stones."
"Give or take a couple. I don't remember exactly."
"Do you recall the locations?"
She tilted her head back and forth trying to remember, her long maple-sugar brown hair curling down her shoulders. Finally, she held up her hands emptily. "About five or six come to mind, but they were so far off the beaten track I couldn't tell you how to get anywhere near them."
"You won't have to."
"What are you driving at?" she challenged.
"We're going to launch an expedition to retrace your Dad's trail to the rune stones and have them translated."
"To what end?"
"Call it gut instinct," said Pitt. "But your father didn't chase around the country looking for Viking inscriptions and then hide or destroy his translations for laughs. He set out to accomplish something. He had a mission. I believe it ties in somehow with his experiments."
Her lips were set in doubt. "If so, you're seeing something I fail to see."
Pitt grinned at her. "Can't lose by trying."
"Dad destroyed all his notes revealing directions to the rune.-stone sites. How are you going to find them?"
He leaned over the desk, picked up a book and handed it to her. The title was Messages from the Ancient Vikings, by Dr. Marlys Kaiser. "This lady has compiled a comprehensive record of more than eighty rune stones throughout North America and their translations. Her earlier works are here in your dad's library. I think it might pay to visit Dr. Kaiser."
"Eighty runes-" She stopped herself, a thought tugging at her mind. "But Dad only studied thirty-five. Why did he stop at that number and not study the other forty-five?"
"Because he was only concerned with the inscriptions that related to the particular project he was pursuing at the time."
There was a glint in her blue eyes as curiosity dug deeper into her mind. "Why didn't Dad leave a record of the inscriptions he translated?"
"I'm hoping Dr. Kaiser can provide us with answers," he said, squeezing her hand.
"When do we leave?" she asked, excitement building within her.
"This afternoon, or as soon as your new security guards are positioned around the farm."
"Where does Dr. Kaiser live?"
"A little town called Monticello. It's about sixty miles northwest of Minneapolis."
"I've never been to Minnesota."
"Lots of bugs this time of year."
Kelly gazed at the books on Vikings lining the shelves of her father's library. "I wonder if Dr. Kaiser knew Dad?"
"It stands to reason he would have consulted her," said Pitt. "We'll know some answers by this time Sunday."
"That's four days away." She looked at him questioningly. "What gives?"
He led her from the library and closed the door. "First, I have to make five or six calls. Then we're flying to Washington. There are people there on whom I rely for their expertise. I want to gather all the data possible before we beat the bushes for old rune stones."
This time when Pitt's NUMA jet landed at Langley Field, Congresswoman Loren Smith was waiting to greet him. As he stepped onto the tarmac, she embraced him, snaking her fingers through his wavy black hair and pulling his head down so she could kiss him.
"Hi there, sailor," she said in a sultry tone after she released him. "My wandering one is home."
Kelly hesitated in the doorway of the aircraft, watching Pitt and Loren looking into each other's eyes. She could easily see this was no casual friendship, and she felt pangs of jealousy. Loren was a very beautiful woman. Her face and body reflected a healthy aura from having grown up on a ranch on the western slopes of Colorado. An accomplished horsewoman, she had run for Congress and won. She was now in her sixth term.
Loren was dressed casually for the humid Washington heat and looked stunning in tan shorts, gold sandals and a yellow blouse. With prominent cheekbones set below violet eyes and framed by cinnamon hair, she might have been a fashion model instead of a public servant. Over the course of ten years, her relationship with Pitt had gone from intimate to platonic and back again several times. Once, they had seriously considered getting married, but both were married to their jobs and found it hard to live together on common ground.
Kelly came over, and the two women immediately sized each other up. Pitt introduced them, and, being a male, did not see the instant underlying conflict of territory between them.
"Kelly Egan, may I present Congresswoman Loren Smith."
"An honor to meet you, Congresswoman," said Kelly, with a tight little smile.
"Please call me Loren," she replied sweetly. "The honor is mine. I knew your father. Please accept my condolences. He was a brilliant man."
Kelly's face brightened. "You knew Dad?"
"He appeared before my committee investigating price-fixing among the oil companies. We also met several times in private and discussed matters of national security."
"I knew Dad had gone to Washington occasionally, but he never talked about meeting with members of Congress. I always thought his trips had something to do with the Commerce and Transportation Departments."
Giordino stepped from the plane at that moment and hugged Loren; they exchanged kisses on their cheeks. "Still gorgeous, I see," he said, gazin
"How's my favorite Roman?"
"Still fighting the barbarians. And you?"
"Still battling the Philistines in the nation's capital."
"We should change places sometime."
Loren laughed. "I do believe I'd be getting the better of the bargain."
She gave Pitt another hard kiss. "Just when I think you've gone to the great beyond, you turn up again."
"What car did you bring?" asked Pitt, knowing she always showed up in one of his collector cars.
She nodded toward an elegant dark green 1938 Packard with long sweeping fenders and two covered spare tires set deep into wells. The beautiful lines of the custom body design by Earle C. Anthony, a noted Packard dealer for five decades, symbolized the very essence of a classic car. This particular car was a model 1607 formal, all-weather town car with a wheelbase slightly over 139 inches and a magnifi-cently quiet V-12 engine with 473 cubic inches that Pitt had tweaked to put out 200 horsepower.
There is an erotic love between a woman and a spectacular automobile. Kelly ran her fingers lightly over the chrome cormorant mascot on the radiator, her eyes glinting with reverence at touching a masterwork of engineering art. She knew her father would have appreciated such a wonderful car. "To simply say it's beautiful," she said, "doesn't do it justice."
"Would you like to drive it?" asked Loren, giving Pitt an imperious look. "I'm sure Dirk wouldn't mind."
Pitt could see he had little choice in the matter and resigned himself to helping Giordino throw their luggage in the trunk and climbing in the backseat with Loren. Giordino sat in the open front seat next to Kelly, who was in seventh heaven behind the big steering wheel.
The divider window between the front seat and the rear passenger compartment was rolled up. Loren looked at Pitt provocatively. "Is she staying with you?"
"What an evil mind you have," Pitt answered with a laugh. "Actually, I was hoping she could stay with you at your town house."
"This isn't the old Dirk Pitt I once knew."
"Sorry to disappoint you, but her life is in danger and she's safer at your place. The Cerberus Corporation is run by maniacs who won't hesitate to kill her in order to lay their hands on her father's formula for a super oil. I assume they've traced me to my hangar, which is why I think it wise that she not stay too close to me."
Loren took his hand in hers. "What would the women of the world do without you?"
"Do you mind baby-sitting Kelly for me?"
Loren smiled. "I could use some feminine company for a change." Then the smile faded. "Seriously, I had no idea you were mixed up with Cerberus."
"The investigation has been kept quiet by the FBI and CIA."
"I'll say it's been kept quiet. Nothing has hit the news media. What do you know that I don't?"
"NUMA proved conclusively that the fire and sinking of the Emerald Dolphin and the explosion that put the Golden Martin on the bottom were deliberate. We're certain that Cerberus and their covert Viper operation are behind the disasters."
She looked at Pitt steadily. "You're certain of this?"
"Al and I have been involved up to our ears since the beginning."
She sat back in the luxurious leather seat and stared out the window for a few moments. Then she turned back. "I happen to head up the committee that's looking into unfair practices by the Cerberus Corporation. We believe they are trying to build a monopoly by purchasing most of the oil and gas-producing wells in North America."
"For what purpose?" asked Pitt. "Nearly ninety percent of our oil comes from foreign producers. It's no secret that American producers can't compete on the cost of a barrel of oil."
"True," acknowledged Loren. "We cannot afford to produce the oil we need internally. With foreign producers playing a dangerous game by dropping production to drive up prices, every country in the world could find itself faced with severe shortages. What makes the situation even worse is that U.S. oil stockpiles and inventories have virtually dried up. Domestic producers are only too happy to sell their leases and fields to Cerberus and stick to refining the crude oil that is shipped from overseas. There's a long supply chain from the ground to storage to supertankers to storage again and finally to the refineries. Once this supply line is drained because of decreased production, it will take three to five months to bring it up to full flow again."
"You're talking about an economic disaster of epic proportions."
Loren's lips tightened. "Fuel prices will soar out of sight. Airlines will have to raise fares through the roof. Prices at the gas pump will skyrocket. Inflation will quadruple. We could be talking about an oil-price swing as high as eighty dollars a barrel."
"I can't conceive of five dollars a gallon or more for gas," said Pitt.
"We're staring it in the face."
"Wouldn't that hurt the foreign producers as well?" asked Pitt.
"Not with them cutting costly production while profits nearly triple. OPEC, for one, is angry over the way the West has manipulated them through the years. They're going to play hardball in the future and turn their backs on pleas for increased production at lower prices. Ignore our threats, too."
Pitt gazed out the window at the small boats sailing on the Potomac River. "Which brings us back to Cerberus. What's their angle in all this? If they're playing for a domestic monopoly on crude oil, why not take over and control the refineries, too?"
Loren made a mystified gesture with her hands. "It's entirely possible they've been in secret negotiations with the refinery owners to buy them out. If I were in their position, I'd cover every base."
"They must have a motive, and a big one, or they wouldn't go around leaving a trail of dead bodies."
Following Giordino's directions, Kelly turned through the gate on the end corner of Ronald Reagan International Airport and drove the old Packard down the dirt road that stopped at Pitt's old aircraft hangar. Pitt rolled down the divider window and spoke to Giordino.
"Why don't you drop the ladies off at Loren's town house and go on to your place to clean up? Then pick us all up around seven o'clock. I'll make reservations for dinner."
"Sounds wonderful," said Kelly. She turned in her seat and smiled at Loren. "I hope I'm not causing you any trouble."
"Not at all," Loren said graciously. "I have a spare guest bedroom, and you're welcome to it."
Then Kelly gazed at Pitt, her eyes aglow. "I just love driving this car."
"Just don't become too attached," he said, grinning at her. "I want it back."
As the Packard town car moved silently down the road, Pitt punched the security code on his remote, entered the hangar, dropped off his luggage and checked his Doxa watch. The hands indicated two-thirty. He reached in the open window of a NUMA Jeep SUV and made a call on its cell phone.
A deep, musical voice with a distinguished cadence answered, "I'm here."
"Dirk!" roared St. Julien Perlmutter, raconteur, gourmand and renowned maritime historian. "I was hoping I'd hear from you. Good to hear your voice. I received a report that you were on the Golden Marlin."
"Congratulations on a narrow escape."
"St. Julien, I wonder if you have time for a little research job?"
"I always have time for my favorite godson."
"May I come over?"
"Yes, indeed. I want to try out a new sixty-year-old port that I ordered from Portugal. I hope you'll join me."
"I'll be there in fifteen minutes."
Pitt drove down a tree-lined street in Georgetown filled with fashionable old houses built at the turn of the twentieth century, and turned into a driveway. The driveway ran past a huge brick home with ivy-covered walls and ended at a spacious carriage house in front of a roofed-over courtyard in the rear. What had once housed the manor's horse-drawn buggies and, later, automobiles had been expanded into a large home with a two-story basement that ho
Pitt parked the Jeep, walked to the door and rapped the big bronze knocker that was cast in the shape of a sailing ship. The door was swept open almost before the knocker struck its bolt. A huge man who weighed 400 pounds, wearing burgundy paisley silk pajamas under a matching robe, filled the doorway. He was not what you'd call soft or flabby fat. His girth was solid and he moved with an unexpected grace. His flowing hair was gray, as was his long beard beneath a rosy red tulip nose and deep sky blue eyes.
Valhalla Rising by Clive Cussler / Actions & Adventure / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes