He remembered Seichan's words.


It could save the world. . . if we're not too late already.


Whatever she meant, it was important enough for her to come seek him out, to betray the Guild.


He needed answers.


The creak of the door drew his attention. Gray's mother pushed into the dental suite. She pulled a surgical mask from her face.


Gray stood up.


"She's damn lucky," his mother said. "We've cauterized the bleeding and hung a second unit of blood. Mickie thinks she'll do fine. He's finishing her dressing."


Mickie was Dr. Michael Corrin, a former teaching assistant of his mother's who had gone on to medical school, largely based on his mother's recommendation. The depth of their relationship and trust extended to this midnight house call, a secret rendezvous at the hospital's neighboring dental facility. A quick ultrasound revealed the night's first bit of good news. The bullet hadn't pierced Seichan's abdominal cavity. The shot had passed just lateral to her pelvic bone.


"When can she be moved?" Gray asked.


"Mickie would rather she spend a few hours here, at the very least."


"We don't have that much time."


"I explained that to him."


"Is she awake?"


A nod. "After the first unit of blood, she grew more responsive. Mickie's loaded her with antibiotics and analgesics. She's already sitting up."


"Then it's time to go." Gray went to push past his mother. He had observed the ultrasound, but he'd been chased out when the doctor set to work on the wound. No amount of arguing would make the doctor budge.


Gray hadn't liked letting Seichan out of his sight, so he'd left with the broken obelisk. Seichan was not going anywhere without it.


With the two pieces of the obelisk in hand, Gray shoved through the door. His mother followed. Gray crossed to the first dental suite. He almost ran into Dr. Corrin as he was stepping out. The young doctor stood as tall as Gray, but he was sandy-haired and whip-thin. A manicured line of beard traced his jawline. Wearing a scowl, Dr. Corrin nodded back to the room.


"She yanked her catheter and asked that I fetch you. And an ultraviolet light." He waved a hand toward the rear of the dental office. "My brother uses one to cure dental composites. I'll be right back."


With the way open, Gray entered the suite.


With her back to him, Seichan was sitting in a dental chair, naked from the waist up, struggling to pull a borrowed Redskins T-shirt over her head. A steri-drape lay crumpled at her feet. Even with her bare back to him, Gray read the strain of the effort. She had to catch herself on the armrest.


His mother sidestepped him. "Let me help you. You shouldn't be doing that by yourself."


Seichan resisted. "I've got it." She lifted an arm to ward off any help, but flinched with a gasp.


"Enough, young lady."


Gray's mother went to her side and helped her tug the T-shirt over her bare breasts and bandaged midriff. Turning around, Seichan discovered Gray standing there. Her face darkened, abashed. But Gray suspected her embarrassment lay not in being almost caught naked, but in showing weakness.


She slowly stood, face hardening against the pain. Leaning her rear end against the reclined chair, she rebuttoned her pants, still tight to her hips.


"I need to speak to your son," she said to Gray's mother, voice hoarse, dismissive.


His mother glanced to Gray. He nodded to her.


"I'll go check on your father," his mother said coldly, and left.


Down the hall, the muted sound of a television started. Apparently Kowalski had found the remote.


Alone now, Gray and Seichan stared at each other. Neither spoke, both taking a moment to size the other up.


Dr. Corrin stepped to the door with a handheld lamp. "This is all we have."


"It will do." Seichan tried to raise a hand to ask for it, but her arm trembled.


Gray accepted it, cradling the pieces of obelisk in one arm. "We'll need a minute."


"Of course." Dr. Corrin followed after Gray's mother, sensing the tension in the room.


Seichan's eyes had never left Gray's face. "Commander Pierce, I'm sorry I put your family at risk. I underestimated Nasser." She gingerly touched her bandaged wound. Acid entered her voice. "I won't make that mistake again. I thought I had lost him in Europe."


"You didn't," Gray snapped back.


Her eyes narrowed. "I didn't because Sigma command is compromised. The Guild used your own resources to track and expose me. The blame does not fall squarely upon me."


Gray had no argument against that.


She touched her forehead as if she had forgotten something, but Gray suspected she was stalling, weighing what to say and what to leave out. "You must have a thousand questions," she mumbled.


"Only one. What the hell is going on?"


Her left eyebrow lifted. A strangely familiar gesture, a reminder of their shared past. "To answer that, we have to start there." She nodded to the obelisk. "If you'll set it on the instrument table .. ."


Needing answers, Gray obeyed, balancing the broken piece atop the base.


"The lamp . . ." she said.


A moment, later, with the overhead lights off, Gray bent over and studied the rows of illuminated letters glowing upon the black stone, across all four surfaces.


He did not recognize the lettering as any hieroglyphs or runes he'd ever seen. He glanced across at her. The whites of Seichan's eyes glowed in the ultraviolet backwash.


"What you're looking at is angelic script," she said. "The language of the archangels."


Gray's brow crinkled with his disbelief.


"I know," she said. "Insane. The script's origin traces back to both early Christianity and ancient Hebrew mysticism. If you want to know more—"


"Skip it. I'd rather find out what you meant when you said that the obelisk could save the world."


She leaned back, glancing away—then her eyes flicked to him. "Gray, I need your help. I have to stop them, but I can't do it alone."


"Do what alone?"


"Go against the Guild. What they are attempting. .." Again there was that flash of fear from her.


Gray frowned. When he'd first run into Seichan, she had been attempting to explode weaponized anthrax over Fort Detrick. Considering such callousness, what would scare her now?


"I helped you in the past," she said, trying the guilt card.


"To defeat a mutual enemy," he countered. "And to save your own skin."


"And that's all I'm looking for here again. Cooperation to defeat a mutual enemy. And it's not just my life in jeopardy this time. Hundreds of millions are threatened. And it's already started. The seeds are planted."


She nodded to the obelisk's glowing writing. "All that is stopping the Guild is locked in this riddle. If we could solve it first, there would be some hope. But I've gone as far as I can alone. I need fresh eyes, someone with more knowledge."


"And you expect the two of us to be able to solve what thwarts the Guild with its vast resources. If we brought all of Sigma into the picture—"


"You'd be handing the Guild their victory. There is a mole in Sigma. Whatever Sigma learns, the Guild will know."


She was right. It was worrisome, to say the least.


"So you propose we go it alone. Just the two of us."


"And one other . . . if he'll cooperate."


"Who?"


"When it comes to dialing with angels and archaeology, there is only one other person I respect."


Gray knew immediately to whom she was referring. "Vigor."


She nodded. "I left Monsignor Verona a calling card, a mystery to begin solving on his own. If you cooperate, we'll continue on." She touched the obelisk, wobbling the broken half. "To the next step on the angelic path."


"And where is that?"


Another shake of her head. She certainly was not going to make this easy. "I will tell you when we are away. As it is, we must get moving. The longer we sit in one place, the greater risk of our exposure."


She reached for the obelisk.


Gray beat her to it. He snatched up the larger half of the broken obelisk and raised it over his head. He'd had enough.


"Destroy it if you want," Seichan warned. "I still won't tell you anything more. Not until we're safely away and you agree to help."


Gray ignored her. "I assume you already made copies of the script here, probably even photos."


"Several in fact," she said.


"Good."


He brought his arm down and smashed the obelisk against the floor. It shattered into several pieces, skittering across the linoleum. A small gasp of surprise escaped Seichan, indicating she had no clue anything was hidden inside the statue.


"What. . . what have you done?"


Gray bent down and picked through the pieces to retrieve the chunk of silver from the debris. He straightened. In his fingers, he held what was hidden inside the stone. He was momentarily stunned silent.


He lifted the large silver crucifix.


Seichan's eyes widened with recognition. She jerked closer, oblivious of any pain. "It cannot be. You found it."


"Found what?"


"Friar Agreer's cross." Her voice lowered, both angry and mortified. "I had it all along."


"Who is Friar Agreer?"


"Friar Antonio Agreer. The priestly confessor to Marco Polo."


Marco Polo?


Tired of the riddles and half statements, Gray snapped harshly. "Seichan, what the hell is going on?"


She waved to a side chair, where her ripped leather bomber jacket had been tossed. "We have to get out of here."


He refused to move, blocking her as she stepped toward the chair.


She lowered her chin, her eyes going hard. "Gray, make up your damned mind. I don't have the time." She made to push past him.


***

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