Chapter 29 of The Holy Lance, a fantasy thriller

Chapter 29, old adversaries join forces. Comments are welcome.

Chapter 29

Gregori Druzhnikov, Ludmilla Chebushova, and Chet Brinker are all crammed into Druzhnikov’s drab FSB office. Druzhnikov works at the keyboard of his computer while Brinker and Chebushova stand behind him. As Brinker watches his FSB counterpart work, he can’t help but marvel at the changes he has witnessed in what was once the bipolar conflict of East versus West that dominated nearly half a century of the world’s history. That a CIA agent would be standing inside the Lubyanka working side by side with an agent of what was once the KGB would have been a tale told by an idiot to an earlier generation. But here he is, doing the typically unglamorous work of analysis that few outside of the intelligence world think of when they hear “CIA” or “KGB.” Access to the Lubyanka comes at a price, however. As Druzhnikov pecks away at his keyboard, his appearance has been measurably improved by the Jerry Garcia tie Brinker had on when he arrived.

Druzhnikov leans back in his chair and addresses Brinker while still focused on his monitor.

“In my mind, there is no question. Your Baghdad thief from 1925 and the abduction of Alexei Kotuzov are linked.”

“Are you sure she said Ekaterinburg?”

Druzhnikov swivels in his chair and looks at his assistant.

“Please tell our American friend what a fine investigator I am.”

A sly smile crosses her face.

“Gregori Druzhnikov has ordered me to tell you that he is a fine investigator. And he has excellent taste in ties.”

Druzhnikov laughs.

“Okay, fair enough. But I am certain.”

“Then Kotuzov’s the heir.”

“Why else would they bother with him? It all adds up.”

“To what, a coup?”

“Not yet. They need the Holy Lance in one piece. All they have is the tip. And without the shaft, the tip is powerless. Or so the legend goes.”

Brinker pulls a flash drive out of his pocket.

“May I?”

Druzhnikov stands up to make way for Brinker.

“Be my guest.”

Brinker sits down and plugs the flash drive into Druzhnikov’s computer tower on the floor to the left of his desk. He waits until he is able to open the files on the drive. He selects a file and opens it. Druzhnikov and Chebushova lean in to read the monitor as Brinker explains.

“These are the claimed locations for the Holy Lance. We need to see if there is any activity at any of these locations that can be tied to the Sons of Peter.”

“What are we looking for?” Druzhnikov asks. Before Brinker can respond, Chebushova speaks up.

“Black market activity, archeological digs, both legal and illegal, perhaps construction sites to mask archeological digs, museum break-ins, private collection thefts.”

“She’s smart; that’s why I keep her around.”

“Okay. Let’s start small to big,” Brinker suggests. “We’ll look at Vatican City first and then Echmiadzin. It’s smaller than Krakow or Vienna, right?”

Chebusova nods in agreement.

“It’s mostly a holy city. Lots of cathedrals. The center of the Armenian Apostolic Church.”

“Lets start with satellite imagery. The more recent, the better. Is there another terminal I can work from?”

“Not possible. I’ll work on it. It’s bad enough that I’ve let the CIA in here, although no one would blame me for accepting such a nice tie for the privilege. Ludmilla will drive you to your hotel. Stay off your cell phone and wait for word from me there. And don’t go wandering. Efraim tells me you wander.”

“He’s been telling tales out of school.”

Chebushova lights a cigarette.

“Let’s go, before traffic gets too bad.”

“Call me the second you have anything, anything at all.”

Druzhnikov turns back to the monitor.

“Okay. Now get going.”

“I’m now a chauffeur for the CIA. Unbelievable. Promise to write if I get thrown in prison,” she says over her shoulder as she heads out of the office.

“Write? I won’t have to. I’ll just tap messages to you on the wall between our cells!”