Authors: Vincent Zandri
“But he would have had to know
about X-rays in the first place.”
“Something that modern man wouldn’t
know about for centuries. And when you consider Gabriel is God’s right-hand angel
when it comes to delivering earth-shattering messages to human’s on earth, you
begin to get a sense of what da Vinci was trying to relay to us. The use of
Gabriel wasn’t indiscriminate at all. Gabriel isn’t a messenger so much as he
is a vehicle for traversing from the heavens to the earth and back again.”
My pulse pumps a little faster, my
brain beginning to buzz with adrenalin.
“Da Vinci couldn’t come right out
and say what he’d seen inside the cave or he’d risk being burned at the stake
as a heretic,” Millen goes on. “He had to send messages in his paintings and
sketches. In this case, the Angel Gabriel, the divine messenger, helped da
Vinci send his own message.”
We’re quiet for another few beats
while I try to digest what’s being communicated about a long dead artist who
just might have been touched by the Divine. Or an extraterrestrial divinity,
“I’m guessing this cave, and our
more recent evil nemeses, are somehow connected,” I say after a time. “What
?” I add. “I thought that’s the painting with all the
big secrets. The big enchilada as far as da Vinci and his symbols go.”
“Like in all those Dan Brown
conspiracy theory books,” Millen adds.
“That’s right,” I say. “The
“Mona Lisa,” Andrea says aloud to
whoever is manning our audio-visual presentation. Within a second, the famous
painting is illuminated on the screen. Andrea eyes the painting and goes on, “We’ve
studied it for clues to the cave’s presence … an out of context image, a
spacecraft, a beam of light pointing in a particular direction on a piece of
background landscape. But thus far … nothing.”
“Maybe Mona Lisa is hiding the
secret in her brain, and that’s why she’s smiling so slyly,” I quip.
“And a lot of good that will do us,”
Millen says. “Not only is she dead, but so are all her grandchildren and their
grandchildren and their grandchildren.”
“And you’ve X-rayed the painting,
of course?” I ask.
is the most
examined artwork in the history of man,” Andrea says. “Only The Shroud of Turin
has been placed under more scrutiny for the symbols and messages it might
“The Shroud of Turin,” I remark,
pursing my lips. “I think I’ve heard of that relic before.”
The image on the screen disappears.
Andrea turns to Millen who’s back to wearing his serious face.
“So, what’s the bottom line here?”
Turning to me, Andrea says, “As we
speak, the evil nemeses—Russia and Iran—have begun their own search for the da
Vinci cave. Like any evil force on earth, what they seek is divine-like inspiration.”
My pulse rises. “They want to steal
the cave’s power?” It’s a question to which I already know the answer.
“And once stolen,” Millen says, “they
wish for one thing and one thing only.”
“To take over the world,” Andrea confirms.
Not to be disrespectful to Her Majesty’s elite secret agent men
and women, but I can’t help but laugh.
“Come on, Andrea,” I contest. “There
is no cave. Or if there is a cave, it’s already been discovered a thousand
times over by scores of snotty nosed curious kids just like da Vinci once was.
There’s no magical hocus pocus going on inside it. People always look for
reasons behind somebody’s creative genius because they can’t conceive of
someone so damned smart. They need to create an outlandish story for it to be
“I agree with you,” she replies. “And
my colleague here believes you. But the fact remains, our intercepts have
spotted these two men leading a guerilla expedition into the forested territory
between the Tuscan village of Vinci and the Dolomite Mountains all the way up
to the north, in search of what could possibly be the most important hole in
the ground in mankind’s history.”
On the left side of the screen is a
handsome, gray-bearded, middle-aged man wearing an olive green military
uniform. And on the right, a clean shaven man with small but intense eyes,
pointy ears, and receding blond hair wearing a business suit.
“Chase Baker,” Millen says, “I’d
like to introduce you to Persian General Qasem Soleimani and his alliance
partner, Igor Putin. The former is the leader of the elite Iranian Army of the
Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, or Kud forces loyal to the Khomeini. A devout
radical Muslim and bloodthirsty killer, of Americans in particular. He foresees
an opportunity for a new, international sanctions-free Iran to not only
dominate the Middle East but also huge territories in Africa, Europe, South
America, and, who knows, perhaps the United States of America. He’s the muscle
of the two.” Inhaling, exhaling. “And the latter, is Vladimir Putin’s first cousin.
A Moscow businessman who runs the AVTOVAZBANK, which is a corrupt sponsored
bank directly associated with cousin Vlad. The bank, if you want to call it
that, is also dubbed ‘The Laundromat’ since it is said to move huge amounts of
rubles through Putin’s and other banks using duplicitous offshore loans. He
would be the money man. The countries both men represent are technically
fighting ISIS, at least publically. But you and I both know, Chase, that they
will have no trouble making peace with terrorist Caliphate if it will promote
their overall goal of world domination.”
I can’t help but laugh again.
“Laugh if you want, Chase,” Andrea
adds. “But it’s no secret Putin will do anything to reestablish the old Soviet
Union and create a new age of Russian world domination. It’s also no secret
that Iran wishes, and indeed professes, to seek the total and complete
destruction of Israel, Western Europe, and, of course, your friends and mine—the
I feel a knot twist itself tight in
my stomach. Because as crazy as it is to believe there are still world leaders
on this planet who harbor evil goals of world domination, it is nonetheless a
“Okay, my apologies for finding the
humor in all this,” I say. “But what difference does it make if these idiots
stumble upon da Vinci’s cave? So what? They’ll get bat shit on their combat
boots and walk away disappointed.”
Andrea sets herself on the table so
that one leg hangs off, the other planted firmly on the floor.
She challenges, “What if the legend
of the cave is true, Chase? What if something inside it is so powerful it can
make a man see things and know things that no mortal man possibly can fathom?
What if whatever is there can turn seemingly normal human beings into a kind of
supermen, capable of great feats of creativity and, more importantly, military
engineering? If there is something like that in the cave, and those two stumble
upon it, they will possess the one single weapon that could wipe freedom loving
people off the face of the earth forever.”
Millen exhales. “Hell on earth is
when evil becomes so large we cannot possibly defeat it.”
I bring both hands to my face,
attempt to rub the reality, or the surreality, into my stubbly skin and flesh.
“Tell that to all the freedom
loving people of the world,” I say.
Andrea slips off the table, comes
around to me so that she’s standing over me, looking far more serious and more
formidable than the sweet bar-girl I signed a Chase Baker novel for last
“Chase, if the Russians and the
Iranians find the cave,” she says, “they will not be defeated.”
I glance at Millen. He’s sitting up
straight, arms crossed over his beefy chest.
“Okay,” I concede. “Now that you’ve
got my attention, how can I help?”
The monitor lights up again, this
time with a map of Northern Italy.
“First let’s order more coffee,”
Andrea says, “and then we’ll get down to brass tacks.”
The Poseidon Brothers bring more
coffee for everyone and, this time, remain in the room with us, their backs
against the glass wall by the door, thick forearms crossed over barrel chests.
In the meantime, Andrea and Millen give it to me straight, no whiskey chaser.
My assignment, should I choose to
accept it, goes something like this:
Find da Vinci’s cave (if it indeed
exists) before Soleimani and Putin do. For my trouble, I’ll be paid handsomely
and, who knows, maybe I’ll get a novel out of it. In any case, I’ll be doing my
country, and the entire world, a great service.
“And where exactly do you expect me
to start looking?” I ask. “The cave could be anywhere between Florence and the
Austrian-Swiss borders. I need something more to go on than just,
cave before the bad guys do
Millen stands, smooths out his
jacket with his open hands.
“Have you ever heard of the
I shake my head.
“I’m not a historian,” I say. “I’m
a trained sandhog. A digger.”
“A digger who is very resourceful,”
Andrea interjects. “Which is why we called upon you. Your skills for locating
precious antiquities is unmatched in this part of the world, Chase.”
“Now I’m all choked up,” I mock. “And
here I thought you loved me for my body.”
“The book,” she goes on, “is
perhaps the only autobiographical account of da Vinci’s life that we know of.”
“He didn’t keep a diary?”
“Indeed,” Millen says, “he kept a
library of sketch books. But almost nothing exists of his personal life, other
than a line here and there. But the sketchbook, it’s said to contain an
accounting not only of his life but, far more importantly, of the cave and its
precise location. If the book exists, it might even contain a detailed map.”
“So, what you’re saying is, find
Book of Truths
, which might not exist, and I find the cave, which
also might not exist.”
Millen smiles. “Or you could walk
the woods for a decade like Hansel and Gretel.”
Andrea raises her hand, her face a
patina of seriousness and alarm.
“Deputy Inspector Millen jests,”
she says. “But we also have reason to believe that the cave does indeed exist,
and that Soleimani and Putin are close to locating it.”
“How can that be if they don’t have
Book of Truths
you talk about?”
“It’s possible they have come upon
pages of it … copies or pages even torn out of it by someone in its
“Money talks,” I say. Then, “Any
idea where I might be able to find this so called someone who just might be in
possession of the book that might not exist? The jerk who could be assisting the
Andrea back-steps toward the door. “A
good place to start is in Florence, where da Vinci lived and worked for so many
years. Surely, if the
Book of Truths
exists, it will be found in the
city where the Renaissance was born.”
She opens the door. Tossing Millen
a nod, I go to it. But I stop before exiting through the opening.
“Question,” I add. “Why not go
after the book and the cave yourself? You’re MI16. Surely, you have many more
resources at your disposal than I do, no matter how great you think I am.”
“To answer your question, Chase,”
Millen says. “We send an army of spies into those woods and into downtown
Florence, Soleimani and Putin will find out immediately, and things will get
It hits me then … the reason
they’re subbing this one out to a sandhog-slash-tour guide-slash-pulp fiction writer.
“In other words, the Italian
government doesn’t know what you’re up to. Because if they did, it would fall within
the jurisdiction of their antiquities authority, and that would shut you down. Or,
the red tape would shut you down anyway. Perhaps for years.”
“And the bad guys, as you call
them, will have taken over the world by then.”
What I also want to mention is that
finding both the
Book of Truths
and the cave, plus the treasures that
might be stored inside it, would be the find not only of a lifetime, but a
century of lifetimes. But I decide not to get into the financial aspect of
things quite yet.
“Our associates here will see you
back to your apartment and that you have everything you need for finding the book
and the cave, as well as for keeping in close contact with us.”
I glance at the Poseidon Brothers. “Shall
we stop for quiche on the way home, fellas?”
I get a scowl from Poseidon Bear.
“Watch your mouth, mate,” he growls.
“Gonna be a long drive home,” I
No one laughs.