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Valhalla rising, p.41
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       Valhalla Rising, p.41

           Clive Cussler
 

  "Another tanker spill?"

  "Far worse."

  "What could be worse?" Morales asked innocently.

  "A spill magnified by an explosion," Zale answered.

  "Off a coastline?"

  Zale shook his head. "Inside one of the world's busiest harbors."

  There were a few moments of silence while the conspirators grasped the awesome consequences. Then Sandra Delage looked at Zale and spoke up quietly, "May I?"

  He nodded without speaking.

  "On Saturday, at approximately four-thirty in the early evening, an Ultra Large Crude Carrier, the Pacific Chimera, with a length of one thousand six hundred eight feet and a width of two hundred thirty-two feet-making her the largest oil tanker in the world-will enter San Francisco Bay. She will make for the Point San Pedro Mooring, where she would normally tie her bow and discharge her cargo. Only, she will not stop. She will continue toward the central section of the city at full speed, driving ashore at the Ferry Building's World Trade Center. Estimates are that she will plow nearly two blocks into the city before coming to rest. Then charges will be detonated and the Pacific Chimera and her deadweight cargo of six hundred twenty thousand tons of oil will go up in an explosion that will devastate the entire San Francisco waterfront area."

  "Oh my God," muttered Sally Morse, her face suddenly pale. "How many people will die?"

  "Could be in the thousands, since it'll take place during rush hour," answered Kruse callously.

  "What does it matter?" asked Zale coldly, as if he were a coroner shoving a body into a morgue refrigerator. "Far more have died in wars that accomplished nothing. Our purpose will be served and we will all benefit in the end." Then he rose from his chair. "I think that will be enough discussion for today. We'll take up where we left off tomorrow morning, deliberate on our respective dealings with our governments and finalize our plans for the coming year."

  Then the most powerful oil moguls of two nations stood and followed Zale to the elevators and up to the lodge's dining room, where cocktails were waiting.

  Only Sally Morse of Yukon Oil remained, visualizing the horrible suffering that was about to fall on thousands of innocent men, women and children in San Francisco. As she sat alone, she came to a decision that could very well end her life. But she set her mind and left the room determined to carry it through.

  When the driver of her Jeep stopped in front of her company Lockheed Jetstar after the conference ended, the pilot was waiting at the boarding steps. "Ready for the flight to Anchorage, Ms. Morse?"

  "There's been a change in plans. I have to be in Washington for another conference."

  "I'll draw up a new flight plan," said the pilot. "Shouldn't take but a few minutes before we take off."

  As Sally sagged into a leather executive chair behind a desk with a computer and an array of phones and a fax, she knew she had entered a maze with no way out. She had never made a decision that was life threatening. A resourceful woman, she had directed the operations of Yukon Oil after her husband died, but this-she had no experience with this. She started to pick up a phone to make a call, but realized there was a very real danger her conversation might be listened into by Zale's agents.

  She asked her flight attendant for a martini to beef up her resolve, threw off her shoes and began making plans to undermine Curds Merlin Zale and his vicious operations.

  The pilot of Zale's big Executive Boeing 727 sat in the cockpit and read a magazine as he waited for his employer to appear. He looked through the windshield and idly watched the Yukon Oil jet roll down the runway and lift off into a sky scattered with thick white clouds. He was still watching as the jet banked and headed toward the south.

  Odd, he thought. He would have expected the pilot to turn northwest toward Alaska. He left the cockpit and stepped back into the main cabin, stopping before a man with his legs crossed, reading the Wall Street Journal. "Excuse me, sir, but I thought you should know that the Yukon Oil jet took off on a heading south toward Washington instead of north for Alaska."

  Omo Kanai laid the paper aside and smiled. "Thank you for being so observant. That is an interesting piece of news."

  41

  Tarrytown, nestled in New York's Westchester County, is one of the more picturesque towns in the historic Hudson Valley. Its tree-lined streets are complemented by Colonial antique shops, homey little restaurants and stores selling locally produced craft items. The residential areas host gothic mansions and secluded estates in the grand style. Its most famous landmark is Sleepy Hollow, made famous by Washington Irving's classic story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

  Pitt lounged and dozed in the backseat of a rental car as Giordino drove, and Kelly admired the scenery from the passenger side. Giordino steered the car around the curves of a narrow road to Marymount's twenty-five-acre campus high on a hill overlooking the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee Bridge.

  Founded in 1907 by a Catholic teaching order named the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Marymount College was the first of a vast network of Marymount schools around the world. The founder, Mother Joseph Butler, made it her life's mission to create places of learning where women could receive an education that would prepare them for occupations of authority and importance throughout every nation of the globe. An independent liberal-arts college in the Catholic tradition, Marymount was one of the fastest-growing women's institutes of learning in the United States.

  The college buildings were austere and mostly constructed of tan-colored brick. Giordino could not help staring at the attractive girls hustling to and from class as he turned onto the main street of the campus. He drove past Buder Hall, a large building with a dome beneath a cross, and pulled to a stop in a parking lot beside Gerard Hall, where the faculty offices were located on the first two floors.

  They walked up the steps of Gerard Hall, through the doors and to an information desk. A young blond student in her early twenties looked up at Pitt as he looked down at her and smiled.

  "How may I direct you?" she asked cordially.

  "Anthropology Department. Dr. Jerry Wednesday's office."

  "Go up the stairs to your left. Then take a right. The Anthropology Department is through the door at the end of the hallway."

  "Thank you."

  "Seeing all these gorgeous young creatures makes me want to go to school again," said Giordino, as they passed a bevy of girls on the stairs.

  "You're out of luck," said Pitt. "It's an all-girls school. No men allowed."

  "Maybe I could teach."

  "You'd be tossed out the door within a week for lecherous behavior."

  Another young student working in the Anthropology Department ushered them into Dr. Wednesday's office. The man who turned from pulling a book from a tightly packed shelf smiled as the three strangers filtered into his cluttered office that smelled of musty aca-demia. Dr. Jerry Wednesday wasn't any taller than Giordino, but much thinner. No tweed jacket with leather elbows or pipe-smoking for this man. He was dressed in a sweatshirt, Levi's and hiking boots. His narrow face was clean-shaven, and the thinning hair on his forehead suggested someone who was in his late forties. The eyes were a dark gray, and he smiled with straight, even, white teeth an orthodontist could be proud of.

  "One of you gentlemen must be the man who called," he said jovially.

  "I called," said Pitt. "This is Kelly Egan and Al Giordino, and I'm Dirk Pitt."

  "Won't you please sit down? You caught me at a good time. I don't have a class for another two hours." Then he looked at Kelly. "Was your father Dr. Elmore Egan, by any chance?"

  "He was my father," Kelly answered.

  "I was very sorry to hear about his death," Wednesday said sincerely. "I met and corresponded with him, you know. He was researching a Viking expedition he thought had passed through New York in ... 1035, I believe it was."

  "Yes, Dad was very interested in the rune stones they left behind."

  "We've just come from Marlys Kaiser in Minnesota," said Pitt. "It was s
he who suggested we meet with you."

  "A grand lady." Wednesday sat down behind his cluttered desk. "I suppose Marlys mentioned that Dr. Egan thought the Vikings who settled in this area were massacred by the Indians in the valley."

  Kelly nodded. "She touched on the subject."

  Wednesday rummaged around an open desk drawer and retrieved a sheaf of wrinkled papers. "Very little is known about the early American Indians who lived along the Hudson River. The first record and description of the local natives came from Giovanni da Verrazano in 1524. During his epic voyage up and down the East Coast, he entered New York Harbor, where he anchored and explored for two weeks, before continuing north to Newfoundland and sailing back to France."

  Wednesday paused as he studied his notes. "Verrazano went on to describe the American natives as having sharp faces, long black hair and black eyes. They dressed in fox and deer skin and adorned themselves with copper ornaments. He noted that they carved canoes from individual logs and lived in either round or long houses constructed from split logs and thatched with long grass and tree branches. Except for Verrazano's earliest account, the ancient Indians left little for archaeologists to discover, study and record. Much of the early inhabitants' life can be only conjectured."

  "So the history of the American Indians begins in 1524," said Giordino.

  "Recorded history, yes. The next great navigator to leave an account was Henry Hudson in 1609. He sailed into the harbor and up the river that was given his name. Amazingly, he made it as far as Cohoes, about ten miles above Albany, where he was stopped by the falls. He described the Indians who lived on the lower part of the river as strong and warlike, while those farther up were friendly and polite."

  "What did they use as weapons?"

  "Bows and arrows, with points made of sharp stones and attached to the shafts with hard resin. They had also carved clubs and made hatchets fashioned with large flints."

  "What was their food supply?" asked Kelly.

  "Game and every kind of fish was plentiful, especially sturgeon, salmon and oysters. They farmed large fields of maize, or corn as we call it, which they cooked by baking, along with squash, sunflowers, and beans. They also produced tobacco, which they smoked in copper pipes. Copper was in abundance throughout the north around the Great Lakes and was the only metal Indians knew how to craft. They were aware of iron, but did not know how to process it."

  "Then they had a comfortable lifestyle."

  "Hudson found no sign of starvation or malnutrition among the Indians," Wednesday answered. Then he smiled slightly. "Interestingly, none of the early explorers ever reported seeing any indication of scalps, prisoners or slaves. We must assume such repugnant practices were introduced by foreigners from across the sea."

  Pitt clasped his hands thoughtfully. "Did any of the early explorers mention any sign of previous contact with Europeans?"

  "A few things were noted by Hudson and others. One was that there was no astonishment among the Indians, as you might expect at seeing strange vessels and white-skinned men with blond or red hair for the first time. One crewman of Verrazano's told of Indians wearing iron adornments that looked like old rusty knife blades. Another claimed he saw an iron axe hanging on the wall of an Indian house.

  There was also a rumor of a crewman finding a concave iron vessel used as a bowl."

  "A Viking helmet," Giordino mused.

  Wednesday smiled patiently and continued. "It wasn't until the Dutch began to settle the valley by building a fort near present-day Albany in 1613, and they began to learn the tribal languages, that the legends of the past began to emerge."

  "What did the legends reveal?"

  "It's difficult to separate myth from fact," replied Wednesday. "The tales passed down through the centuries by spoken word were very vague, of course, with no evidence to support them. One that surfaced told of wild, bearded men with white skin and hard heads that gleamed in the sun, who arrived and built a settlement in the valley. When some went away for a long time-"

  "Magnus Sigvatson and his hundred men who set off to explore the west," Kelly interrupted.

  "Yes, I'm familiar with the rune stones your father discovered and their translations," said Wednesday, unruffled. "The story goes on to say that when the Indians, who saw no crime in theft, began stealing and slaughtering livestock that had been carried across the sea in the newcomers' boats, there was retaliation. The wild men with hair on the face, as they were called, retrieved the livestock and cut off the hands of the thieves. Unfortunately, one of the thieves was a local chief's son. The angered chief gathered other tribes in the valley. One tribe was the Munsee Lenape, or Delaware, who were culturally related to the Algonkian. The combined forces attacked the foreigners' settlement and destroyed it, slaughtering them all. One version suggests that a few of the women and children were carried off as slaves, but that practice did not come in until much later."

  "It must have been a shock for Magnus and his men to return and find their friends and families dead."

  Wednesday nodded. "We can only speculate. But now it was their turn. The legend describes a great battle with the wild men with shiny heads, who killed more than a thousand Indians before dying to the last man."

  "Not a pretty story," murmured Kelly.

  Wednesday held up his hands in an absent gesture. "Who can say whether it's true or not?"

  "Seems odd that no trace of the settlement has been discovered," observed Pitt.

  "The legend goes on to say the Indians, understandably in a crazed wrath, destroyed and burned every last vestige of the newcomers' settlement, leaving nothing standing aboveground for later archaeologists to study."

  "Was there ever a reference to a cave?"

  "The only mention I'm aware of is on one of the rune stones Dr. Egan found."

  Pitt looked at Wednesday, saying nothing and waiting in expectation.

  Wednesday took the clue. "There were, however, a few unexplained circumstances. For example, a significant transition occurred in the Hudson Valley beginning about 1000 A.D. The inhabitants suddenly discovered agriculture and began to grow their own vegetables. Farming became a source of sustenance, along with hunting, fishing and gathering. About this same time, they began to fortify their villages with rock and vertical logs reinforced with earth embankments. They also constructed oval longhouses with sleeping platforms set in the walls, something they had never done in earlier times."

  "So what you are suggesting is that the Vikings showed them how to farm crops and build sturdy houses. And, after the great battle, the Indians began throwing up stockades for defense in case of another mass attack by foreigners."

  "I'm a realist, Mr. Pitt," said Wednesday. "I'm not suggesting anything. What I've told you is ancient hearsay and supposition. Until absolute proof is found that goes beyond the inscriptions on the rune stones, whose authenticity is in doubt by most archaeologists, we can only accept the stories as legends and myths, nothing more."

  "I believe my father found evidence of a Viking settlement," said Kelly quietly. "But he died before revealing his research, and we cannot find his notes or journals."

  "I sincerely hope you're successful," said Wednesday honestly. "I would like nothing better than to believe the Hudson Valley was visited and settled six hundred years earlier than the Spanish and Dutch. It might be fun to rewrite the history books."

  Pitt rose, leaned across the desk and shook Dr. Wednesday's hand. "Thank you, Doctor. We're grateful for your time."

  "Not at all, I enjoyed it." He smiled at Kelly. "Please let me know if you turn up anything."

  "There is one more question."

  "Yes?"

  "Did any other Viking artifacts ever turn up besides those mentioned by the early explorers?"

  Wednesday thought a moment. "Come to think of it, a farmer reported finding old rusty chain mail back in the nineteen twenties, but I don't know what became of it or whether a scientist ever examined it."

  "Thank you again."


  They offered their farewells, left Wednesday's office and headed for the parking lot. Dark clouds were massing and it looked as if rain was only minutes away. They reached the car and climbed in just as the first drops began to fall. The mood was somber as Giordino inserted the keys in the ignition and started the engine.

  "Dad found the settlement," Kelly said intently. "I know it."

  "My problem," said Giordino, "is that I can't make a connection between a settlement and a cave. It looks to me as if no cave, no settlement."

  "Though any trace of the settlement was destroyed, I'm betting there was a cave and that it still exists," said Pitt.

  "I wish I knew where," Kelly said wistfully. "Josh and I never found it."

  "The Indians could have sealed off the entrance," advised Giordino.

 
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