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  This is a work of fiction. The events that unfold within these pages as well as the characters depicted are products of the author’s imagination. Any connection to specific people, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2017 Brian W. Claspell

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without written permission.

  Library of Congress # 2017908491

  Cover and interior design by Maria Fazio



  For Anna who believed in me - Always.

  . . .

  For my children who had patience and great love.

  . . .

  For all those who read, edited and commented

  on this manuscript.

  . . .

  For L.D. Beyer for his advice and experiences he shared.

  . . .

  For Maria Fazio who created the cover concept and

  formatted the book.

  . . .

  For Charity Bradford and Amy Hancock who are just as

  passionate about writing as I am.

  . . .

  For my parents and extended family, they are all great.

  . . .

  Did I mention, for Anna, who I believe in – Always!


  Prologue – During the Cold War

  Chapter 1 – The Airport

  Chapter 2 – Entering the Drake Hotel

  Chapter 3 – Dinner

  Chapter 4 – Planning the Encounter

  Chapter 5 – The Castle Vladeeman

  Chapter 6 – Reporting Up

  Chapter 7 – London Town

  Chapter 8 – Meeting Ricardo “Ric” Martinez

  Chapter 9 – London Police

  Chapter 10 – The Winding Road to Bucharest

  Chapter 11 – The Debrief

  Chapter 12 – Messages and Phone Calls

  Chapter 13 – Receiving End

  Chapter 14 – Arthur’s Office

  Chapter 15 – University of Bucharest

  Chapter 16 – Morning Paper

  Chapter 17 – Frank’s Explanation

  Chapter 18 – Searching

  Chapter 19 – Jenny’s Insurance Policy

  Chapter 20– Bucky

  Chapter 21 – The Professors Connect

  Chapter 22 – To the Airport

  Chapter 23 – Bucky’s Last Gift

  Chapter 24 – Yuri

  Chapter 25 – Plane to France

  Chapter 26 – The Cold War Russian Air

  Chapter 27 – The “Chunnel”

  Chapter 28 – An Evening in Paris

  Chapter 29– Dragos in Paris

  Chapter 30 – Ricardo in Style

  Chapter 31 – Another Evening in Paris

  Chapter 32– Sir Arthur Arrives in Paris

  Chapter 33 – Early Morning Egypt

  Chapter 34 – Ricardo Awoken

  Chapter 35 – Morning Briefing

  Chapter 36 – The Louvre and Bonaparte’s Furniture

  Chapter 37 – The Teaser

  Chapter 38 – Arthur in Paris

  Chapter 39 – The Louvre Main Attraction

  Chapter 40 – Cairo and the Bronze Plate

  Chapter 41– Café American Pie

  Chapter 42 – The Courier

  Chapter 43 – Corner Encounter

  Chapter 44 – A Tale of Two Plates

  Chapter 45 – Dragos’ Near Death

  Chapter 46 – The Interesting Deal

  Chapter 47 – One Way Debrief

  Chapter 48 – Dragos’ Plate

  Chapter 49– The Even Colder Russian Air

  Chapter 50 – The French Police

  Chapter 51 - On the Run

  Chapter 52 – The Near Dead End

  Chapter 53 – Reporting In

  Chapter 54 – The Translation

  Chapter 55 – Arrangements

  Chapter 56 – The Date

  Chapter 57 – Train to Zurich

  Chapter 58 – Ricardo Goes Home

  Chapter 59 – Early Morning in Paris

  Chapter 60 – USB in Downtown Switzerland

  Chapter 61 – Palace of Versailles

  Chapter 62 – Amir

  Chapter 63 – A Small Swiss Bank

  Chapter 64 – The Aftershock

  Chapter 65 – The Lie

  Chapter 66 – New Arrangements

  Chapter 67 – The Gathering

  Chapter 68 – Frank Talks to Jenny

  Chapter 69 – Heidi

  Chapter 70 - Insurance

  Chapter 71 - Ricardo at Breakfast

  Chapter 72 – Jenny/Jim on Plane

  Chapter 73 – Interpol

  Chapter 74 – Yuri in Iowa

  Chapter 75 – Andrew’s Air Force Base

  Chapter 76 – Great Uncle Roy

  Chapter 77 – The Great Bank Heist

  Chapter 78 – My Hometown

  Chapter 79 – The Best Wings

  Chapter 80 – Frank

  Chapter 81 – Yuri on the Internet

  Chapter 82 – A Surprise Visitor

  Chapter 83 – The Bank Encounter

  Chapter 84 – The Bitter Russian Air

  Chapter 85 – Museum of Science and Industry

  Chapter 86 – Drive to Chicago

  Chapter 87 – New Arrangements

  Chapter 88 – Jenny Does Email

  Chapter 89 – Second Date

  Chapter 90 – Cheap Motel

  Chapter 91 – Yuri’s Play

  Chapter 92 – Upward Mobility

  Chapter 93 – Lake County

  Chapter 94– The Warehouse

  Chapter 95 – The Bank

  Chapter 96 – Back in The Warehouse

  Chapter 97 – Convergence

  Chapter 98 – Reporting Back

  Chapter 99 – The Drake Again

  Post Script


  During the Cold War

  It was a chance that the CIA could not pass up. The opportunity to get an agent involved in the Ministry of Knowledge in the Soviet Union. The Kremlin was actually unwittingly inviting an active CIA agent to participate. The fact that one of the CIA’s best modern day linguist and interpreters of ancient languages had a second job as a professor of antiquities at the University of Maryland was a beautiful streak of luck. Professor Samuel Thomas was CIA true and proper. He was the agent that had cracked many of the Eastern Block codes that had given the United States a considerable intelligence advantage in the 1980s.

  Now the Kremlin through an extreme stroke of luck had found an archeological dig in northern Russia. They did not have the expertise to interpret some of the things they were finding. Their exhaustive search led them to less than a dozen candidates. Professor Samuel Thomas was second on their list. The first man, a much younger choice, lived in England and had a young family. The younger professor was reluctant to get involved in a project where very little information was available and would put his young family far behind the Iron Curtain.

  Professor Thomas was a single man. He had married young, but that had not lasted very long. He then had a live in girlfriend for many years but that passed also. He fancied himself a lady’s man and was often known to take on a new girlfriend every few weeks. He seemed to be the epitome of the “one night stand” of the pre-AIDS era.

  When asked by the Kremlin to come to Moscow for a “special project” that could last six to twenty four months, he was not excited. He was in the middle of an operation called Contra-connection that would disrupt the activities of some of the South American drug cartels. It was an off shoot project of the Iran-Contra operation. Professor Thomas was heavily vested in t
his project. He was on the verge of deciphering one of the largest cartel’s forms of communication in Columbia. They had been able to track the profits from accounts in the Bahamas to accounts in Switzerland. This had all come together perfectly. Professor Thomas was working on correcting a recent snag in the operation that once fixed would pull it all together. It would make their many long years of work worth it.

  The team called the Fabulous Five, who had worked so hard on this project; thought that there was no way Professor Thomas could, or would, be pulled from this assignment. But the news of this offer made many of his superiors salivate at the prospect.

  Officially, the US State Department objected to the offer of an ordinary American citizen being invited into the USSR for a “fuzzy” purpose. They pushed the Kremlin for more disclosure on the project. The Kremlin refused but said it was “purely historical and archeological in nature” and they would “share results and give Professor Thomas appropriate credit”. This, of course, made the CIA salivate at the opportunity even more. If it was top secret, the CIA had a lot to gain. If it were really just a historical dig, then Agent Thomas would at least have connections with the Ministry of Knowledge and might be able to leverage those in the future. This seemed like a no lose proposition. The US State Department relented on the objections when the Ministry of Knowledge agreed to let Professor Thomas report back weekly on his work and his health. This, of course, would be a somewhat controlled message but it would be regular sanctioned contact from a CIA operative from behind the Iron Curtain.

  The chief of the CIA would claim that President Ronald Reagan himself made the call for Agent Thomas to take the assignment. That could never be proven, but it was made high enough in the hierarchy that Agent Thomas was surprised when his mid-western vacation was cut short and he was escorted immediately for reassignment. He was not even given a chance to turn his work over to his colleagues or even debrief. His sole focus was to prep for his new assignment behind the Iron Curtain.

  Less than a week later he was being briefed in Moscow on the project. The briefing was short and focused more on security protocol and how his communication with the States would be handled. There were no specifics on the assignment only a description of an elaborate archeological find. He was then taken north-east of Moscow in a military truck. How far he was taken, he was not quite sure. As he traveled, he considered that his team on the Contra-connection project might make some progress, but he was needed to complete the project. He knew that they could not complete it without him. This he was sure of. This assignment in Russia would be great; it was a chance to be a real “spy”. He had done this type of thing a few times early in his career, but not often. It was the thrill of this concept that attracted him to the CIA in the first place.

  The archeological site was less than had been described to him. The ruin was a small village, but not a lot had been uncovered. There was a make–shift modern village of hastily constructed buildings on the far end of the dig site. He was taken to a barracks like building. When he entered the building he noticed there were about thirty double bunked beds, about cot size. At the end of the barracks were two small rooms. Professor Thomas was led to the one on the left. It was barely big enough for a single cot and a small shelf for clothes. There was also a single light dangling from a cord and a space heater on top of the shelf.

  The soldier that took him to the spot said in broken English, “It is our best–for you”.

  Professor Thomas answered in Russian, “спасибо (thank you)” and then explained to the soldier that he could speak fluent Russian. Professor Thomas did not eat dinner but went right to bed. He vaguely remembered hearing people coming into the barracks.

  There was a regimented wakeup call in the morning. He instinctively came out of his small room to a bustling barracks. Standing to greet him was Sven Choski, the head of the dig. Sven was a stout man who worked in the Ministry of Knowledge. In any western country he would have been a well respected educator at a fine university. In the USSR, being connected to the Kremlin in anyway was even more prestigious. Next to Sven stood Commander Blootov, the senior military leader and overall official leader of the dig. Sven greeted Professor Thomas and insisted that they go to the main artifact room immediately.

  Sven was almost as giddy as a child waiting for Christmas. They entered a building that had cement block sides and a canvas-tent like roof. There were several long tables with a few artifacts scattered amongst the tables. The artifacts were clearly in various stages of the process of cleaning, evaluating and cataloging. At this time of day though, the room was empty except for the three of them and a single guard at the far end of the structure. The academic side of Professor Thomas came to life as he started walking along side these tables. He stopped and looked at an artifact, a weapon that set on a table. He stood thinking for a moment, going through his own personal catalogue system in his mind. Then it came to him, “I have seen one of these in the Smithsonian vault–I believe it was from the eastern Mediterranean area.”

  “Yes, Samuel, yes” Sven said in anticipation and building excitement.

  “And you found that in this dig sight, some place in northern Russia?” Professor Thomas asked seeming somewhat surprised.

  “Interesting, isn’t it?” Sven picked up a similar piece from across the table that had already been catalogued. “We have been working for a year and have several finds like this. Not just weapons though, but other things also. Many are fully intact.”

  At the end of the large room there stood the guard in front of a locked cage. Sven had the commander and the professor sit at a table near the cage. He unlocked the cage and brought a box covered with a canvas sheet and placed it in front of Professor Samuel Thomas. Sven was smiling, barely able to hold his own enthusiasm.

  Professor Thomas slowly pulled the canvas off of the artifact. In almost an instant, the spy in Samuel Thomas was gone and the academic explorer was in full control, at least for that moment. “You found a bronze plate?” The plate sat in a wood frame and had been sealed to the edges with wax.

  Sven had a satisfying smile, “Yes, and writing–looks like some form of Egyptian or Hebrew or some combination. But that is why we need you.”

  “Are there more?” Professor Thomas was now eager for more.

  “Not yet, but we hope to find more.” Sven said confidently.

  “It will take a while to figure out a basis for translation.” Professor Samuel Thomas set stunned, carefully studying the artifact. Without looking up he said, “I cannot believe it, ancient writings on a bronze plate clearly from someplace in the Mediterranean basin found here in northern Russia.”


  Chicago Time (Modern Day)

  Chapter 1 – The Airport

  “That was nice of you to stick around and visit with me.” Darcie said as she sipped her last few drinks of the cocktail in anticipation of needing to say good bye so that she could catch her plane.

  Jacob knew that his sister-in-law had routed her travel through Chicago so that she could see him. There were other alternatives to get from Atlanta to New York City. Coordinating a schedule like this with the ever changing security measures since 9-11 was difficult to arrange. However, he was glad to see her. Sandy blond hair, light skinned with a reassuring smile exerting confidence - she looked so much like her older sister that he almost cried when he saw her. The pain was still almost unbearable, even after nearly a full year. “I am just glad your plane came in close to mine.” Jacob responded politely.

  The conversation dragged longer than it should have and Darcie might just miss her plane if she didn’t get moving soon. Then the announcement came over the loud speaker as though it had been directed right at Darcie. “This is the last boarding call for United Flight 678 to New York City. Please make your way to the plane immediately if you have not yet boarded.”

  Darcie got up. Jacob did also. They hugged each other and Darcie said, “You can come out for the holidays if you would like.”<
br />
  “I might.” Jacob responded as the embrace took him back to his long embraces with his wife Carol. It was not the same, but the memory lingered and haunted him. Jacob sat back down to finish his soda before he went to get his luggage. He watched Darcie disappear into the hallway with the terminals and pondered his last goodbye to Carol.

  Almost immediately after Darcie disappeared, a man walked up next to the table and set a metal silver brief case on the table. “I will be done in a minute and you can have the table.” Jacob said not even looking up at the man. His mind was still reminiscing about a time he went on a business trip and his wife had hidden cookies in his suitcase. The cookies did not travel well but he had eaten them anyway just so he could tell his wife how good they were.

  “Please, hold this suitcase.” The man just walked away as quickly as he had approached. Jacob did not even see his face. A sense of realization came over Jacob almost instantly. This was the airport. A man he had never met just left him a suitcase that did not belong to him. He immediately began to scan the airport with his eyes to find a security officer.

  Before he got too far, a woman sat at the table across from him. She was a beautiful woman with brunette hair that was pulled back. She looked sophisticated and very educated. Her skin tone was a slight olive color and was smooth. She was clearly a few years younger than Jacob was. “If anyone asks, you are Mr. Conrad, Mr. Jim Conrad.”

  “Who are you?”

  She quickly showed what appeared to be some type of law enforcement identification as she said, “I am with the CIA and we need your help right now.” It wasn’t as though she were asking, she was sort of insisting.

  Before Jacob could get another question out of his mouth, a Latino American looking man approached the table. “You are Mr. Conrad, yes?” He spoke in clear English but with a distinct Latin–American accent. He was young, probably in his early to mid twenties.

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