Authors: Brandon Sanderson
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #General
“Well,” Ivy said,
“it’s a good thing we picked an out-of-the-way city. If we had to find Razon in a large urban center—home to three major world religions, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world—this would be
I smiled as we walked out of the airport. One of Monica’s two security goons went to track down the cars her company had ordered for us.
My smile didn’t do much more than crack the corner of my lips. I hadn’t gotten much study done on Arabic during the second half of the flight. I’d spent the time thinking about Sandra. That was never productive.
Ivy watched me from concerned eyes. She could be motherly sometimes. Kalyani strolled over to listen in on some people speaking in Hebrew nearby.
“Ah, Israel,” J.C. said, stepping up to us. “I’ve always wanted to come over here, just to see if I could slip through security. They have the best in the world, you know.”
He carried a black duffle on his back that I didn’t recognize. “What’s that?”
“M4A1 carbine,” J.C. said. “With attached advanced combat optical gunsight and M203 grenade launcher.”
“I have contacts over here,” he said softly. “Once a SEAL, always a SEAL.”
The cars arrived, though the drivers seemed bemused at why four people insisted on two cars. As it was, they’d barely fit us all. I got into the second one, with Monica, Tobias, and Ivy—who sat between Monica and me in the back.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Ivy asked softly as she did up her seat belt.
“I don’t think we’ll find her, even with this,” I said. “Sandra is good at avoiding attention, and the trail is too cold.”
Monica looked at me, a question on her lips, obviously thinking I’d been talking to her. It died as she remembered whom she was accompanying.
“There might be a good reason why she left, you know,” Ivy said. “We don’t have the entire story.”
“A good reason? One that explains why, in ten years, she’s never contacted us?”
“It’s possible,” Ivy said.
I said nothing.
“You’re not going to start losing us, are you?” Ivy asked. “Aspects vanishing? Changing?”
She didn’t need to add that last part.
“That won’t happen again,” I said. “I’m in control now.”
Ivy still missed Justin and Ignacio. Honestly, I did too.
“And . . . this hunt for Sandra,” Ivy said. “Is it only about your affection for her, or is it about something else?”
“What else could it be about?”
“She was the one who taught you to control your mind.” Ivy looked away. “Don’t tell me you’ve never wondered. Maybe she has more secrets. A . . . cure, perhaps.”
“Don’t be stupid,” I said. “I like things how they are.”
Ivy didn’t reply, though I could see Tobias looking at me in the car’s rearview mirror. Studying me. Judging my sincerity.
Honestly, I was judging my own.
What followed was a long drive to the city—the airport is quite a ways from the city proper. That was followed by a hectic ride through the streets of an ancient—yet modern—city. It was uneventful, save for us almost running over a guy selling olives. At our destination, we piled out of the cars, entering a sea of chattering tourists and pious pilgrims.
Built like a box, the building in front of us had an ancient, simple façade with two large, arched windows on the wall above us. “The Church of the Holy Sepulchre,” Tobias said. “Held by tradition to be the site of the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, the structure
encloses one of the traditional locations of his burial. This marvelous structure was originally two buildings, constructed in the fourth century by order of Constantine the Great. It replaced a temple to Aphrodite that had occupied the same site for approximately two hundred years.”
“Thank you, Wikipedia,” J.C. grumbled, shouldering his assault rifle. He’d changed into combat fatigues.
“Whether tradition is correct,” Tobias continued calmly, hands clasped behind his back, “and whether this is the
location of the historical events, is a subject of some dispute. Though tradition has many convenient explanations for anomalies—such as reasoning that the temple to Aphrodite was constructed here to suppress early Christian worship—it has been shown that this church follows the shape of the pagan one in key areas. In addition, the fact that the church lies within the city walls makes for an excellent disputation, as the tomb of Jesus would have been outside the city.”
“It doesn’t matter to us whether it is authentic or not,” I said, passing Tobias. “Razon would have come here. It’s one of the most obvious places—if not
most obvious place—to start looking. Monica, a word, please.”
She fell into step beside me, her goons going to check if we needed tickets to enter. The security here seemed very heavy—but, then, the church is in the West Bank, and there had been a couple of terrorist scares lately.
“What is it you want?” Monica asked me.
“Does the camera spit out pictures immediately?” I asked. “Does it give digital results?”
“No. It takes pictures on film only. Medium format, no digital back. Razon insisted it be that way.”
“Now a harder one. You do realize the problems with a camera that takes pictures of one’s very location, only farther back in time, don’t you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Merely this: we’re not in the same location now as we were two thousand years ago. The planet moves. One of the theoretical problems with time travel is that if you were to go back in time a hundred years to the exact point we’re standing now, you’d likely find yourself in outer space. Even if you were extremely lucky—and the planet were in the exact same place in its orbit—the Earth’s rotation would mean that you’d appear somewhere else on its surface. Or under its surface, or hundreds of feet in the air.”
“It’s science,” I said, looking up at the face of the church.
What we’re doing here is ridiculous.
And yet . . .
“All I know,” she said, “is that Razon had to go to a place to take pictures of it.”
“All right,” I said. “One more. What’s he like? Personality?”
“Abrasive,” she said immediately. “Argumentative. And he is
protective of his equipment. I’m sure half of the reason he got away with the camera was because he’d repeatedly convinced us he was OCD with his stuff, so we gave him too much leniency.”
Eventually, our group made its way into the church. The stuffy air carried the sounds of whispering tourists and feet shuffling on the stones. It was still a functioning place of worship.
“We’re missing something, Steve,” Ivy said, falling into step beside me. “We’re ignoring an important part of the puzzle.”
“Any guesses?” I asked, looking over the highly ornamented insides of the church.
“I’m working on it.”
“Wait,” J.C. said, sauntering up. “Ivy, you think we’re missing something, but you don’t know what it is, and have no clue what it might be?”
“Basically,” Ivy said.
“Hey, skinny,” he said to me, “I think I’m missing a million dollars, but I don’t know why, or have any clue as to how I might have earned it. But I’m
sure I’m missing it. So if you could do something about that . . .”
“You are such a buffoon,” Ivy said.
“That there, that thing I said,” J.C. continued, “that was a
“No,” she said, “it was a logical proof.”
“One intended to demonstrate that you’re an idiot. Oh! Guess what? The proof was a success!
Quod erat demonstrandum
. We can accurately say, without equivocation, that you are, indeed, an idiot.”
The two of them walked off, continuing the argument. I shook my head, moving deeper into the church. The place where the crucifixion had supposedly taken place was marked by a gilded alcove, congested with both tourists and the devout. I folded my arms, displeased. Many of the tourists were taking photographs.
“What?” Monica asked me.
“I’d hoped they’d forbid flash photography,” I said. “Most places like this do.” If Razon had tried to use his, it would have made it more likely that someone had spotted him.
Perhaps it was forbidden, but the security guards standing nearby didn’t seem to care what people did.
“We’ll start looking,” Monica said, gesturing curtly to her men. The three of them moved through the crowd, going about our fragile plan—which was to try to find someone at one of the holy sites who remembered seeing Razon.
I waited, noticing that a couple of the security guards nearby were chatting in Hebrew. One waved to the other, apparently going off duty, and began to walk away.
“Kalyani,” I said. “With me.”
“Of course, of course, Mister Steve.” She joined me with a hop in her step as we walked up to the departing guard.
The guard gave me a tired look.
” I said in Hebrew with Kalyani’s help. I’d first mutter under my breath what I wanted to say, so she could translate it for me. “
I apologize for my terrible Hebrew!
He paused, then smiled. “
It’s not so bad.
You are Jewish?
” he guessed. “
From the States?
Actually, I’m not Jewish, though I am from the States. I just think a man should try to learn a country’s language before he visits.
The guard smiled. He seemed an amiable enough fellow; of course, most people were. And they liked to see foreigners trying their own language. We chatted some more as he walked, and I found that he was indeed going off duty. Someone was coming to pick him up, but he didn’t seem to mind talking to me while he waited. I tried to make it obvious that I wanted to practice my language by speaking with a native.
His name was Moshe, and he worked this same shift almost every day. His job was to watch for people doing stupid things, then stop them—though he confided that his more important duty was to make sure no terrorist strikes happened in the church. He was extra security, not normal staff, hired for the holidays, when the government worried about violence and wanted a more visible presence in tourist sites. This church was, after all, in contested territory.
A few minutes in, I started moving the conversation toward Razon. “
I’m sure you must see some interesting things,
” I said. “
Before we came here, we were at the Garden Tomb. There was this crazy Asian guy there, yelling at everybody.
” Moshe asked.
Yeah. Pretty sure he was American from his accent, but he had Asian features. Anyway, he had this big camera set up on a tripod—as if he were the most important person around, and nobody else deserved to take pictures. Got in this big argument with a guard who didn’t want him using his flash.
Moshe laughed. “
He was here too.
Kalyani chuckled after translating that. “Oh, you’re
, Mister Steve.”
” I asked, casually.
” Moshe said. “
Must be the same guy. He was here . . . oh, two days back. Kept cursing out everyone who jostled him, tried to bribe me to move them all away and give him space. Thing is, when he started taking pictures, he didn’t mind if anyone stepped in front of him. And he took shots all over the church, even outside, pointed at the dumbest locations!
Real loon, eh?
” the guard said, chuckling. “
I see tourists like him all the time. Big fancy cameras that they spent a ridiculous amount on, but they don’t have a bit of photography training. This guy, he didn’t know when to turn off his flash, you know? Used it on every shot—even out in the sun, and on the altar over there, with all the lights on it!
” he said. “
” Then he hesitated. “
Oh, uh, no offense meant.
” I said, relaying immediately what Kalyani said in response. “
He hesitated, then cocked his head at me.
“Oh!” Kalyani said. “Oh, I’m sorry, Mister Steve! I wasn’t thinking.”
“It’s all right.”
The guard laughed. “
You are good at Hebrew, but I do not think that means what you think!
I laughed as well, and noticed a woman moving toward him, waving. I thanked him for the conversation, then inspected the church some more. Monica and her flunkies eventually found me, one of them tucking away some photos of Razon. “Nobody here has seen him, Leeds,” she said. “This is a dead end.”
“Is that so?” I asked, strolling toward the exit.
Tobias joined us, hands clasped behind his back. “Such a marvel, Stephen,” he said to me. He nodded toward an armed guard at the doorway. “Jerusalem, a city whose name literally means ‘peace.’ It is filled with islands of serenity like this one, which have seen the solemn worship of men for longer than most countries have existed. Yet here, violence is never more than a few steps away.”
Violence . . .
“Monica,” I said, frowning. “You said you’d searched for Razon on your own, before you came to me. Did that include checking to see if he was on any flights out of the States?”
“Yeah,” she said. “We have some contacts in Homeland Security. Nobody by Razon’s name flew out of the country, but false IDs aren’t
hard to find.”
“Could a fake passport get you into Israel? One of the most secure countries on the planet?”
She frowned. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
“It seems risky,” I said.
“Well, this is a fine time to bring it up, Leeds. Are you saying he’s not here after all? We’ve wasted—”
“Oh, he’s here,” I said absently. “I found a guard who spoke to him. Razon took pictures all over the place.”