Authors: Daniel Silva
The staircase was
wide and straight and covered by a bright red carpet. Weber led the way, hands in the air, Mikhail's Uzi Pro pointed at the
small of his back. Gabriel was flanked by Eli Lavon and Estermann. The German appeared decidedly uneasy.
“Something bothering you, Estermann?”
“You'll see in a minute.”
“Maybe you should tell me now. I'm not crazy about surprises.”
“Herr Wolf usually doesn't entertain visitors in the great hall.”
At the top of the stairs, Weber turned to the left and led them into an anteroom. He stopped outside a pair of ornate double
doors. “This is as far as I'm allowed to go. Herr Wolf is waiting inside.”
“Who else is in there?” asked Gabriel.
“Only Herr Wolf.”
Gabriel leveled the Beretta at Weber's head. “You're sure about that?”
Gabriel aimed the Beretta toward one of the armchairs. “Have a seat.”
“It's not permitted.”
“It is now.”
Weber sat down. Oded lowered himself into the chair opposite, the Jericho .45 on his knee.
Gabriel looked at Estermann. “What are you waiting for?”
Estermann opened the double doors and led them inside.
It was a cavernous space, about sixty feet by fifty. One wall was given over almost entirely to a panoramic window. The other
three were hung with Gobelin tapestries and what appeared to be Old Master paintings. There was a monumental classicist china
closet, an enormous clock crowned by an eagle, and a bust of Wagner that appeared to be the work of Arno Becker, the German
architect and sculptor beloved by Hitler and the Nazi elite.
There were two seating areas, one near the window and another in front of the fireplace. Gabriel crossed the room and joined
Jonas Wolf before the hearth. The heat of the fire was volcanic. Atop the embers lay a book. Only the leather cover remained.
“I suppose burning books comes naturally to someone like you.”
Wolf was silent.
“You're not armed, are you, Wolf?”
“Would you get it for me, please?”
Wolf reached beneath his cashmere blazer.
“Slowly,” cautioned Gabriel.
Wolf produced the weapon. It was an old Luger.
“Do me a favor and toss it onto that chair over there.”
Wolf did as he was told.
Gabriel looked at the blackened remains of the book. “Is that the Gospel of Pilate?”
“No, Allon. It
Gabriel placed the barrel of the Beretta against the nape of Wolf's neck. Somehow he managed not to pull the trigger. “Do
you mind if I have a look at it?”
“Be my guest.”
“Would you get it for me, please?”
Wolf made no movement.
Gabriel twisted the barrel of the Beretta. “Don't make me ask twice.”
Wolf reached for the fireplace tools.
“No,” said Gabriel.
Crouching, Wolf stretched a hand into the inferno. A foot to the backside was enough to send him headlong into the flames.
By the time he managed to extricate himself, his mane of silver hair was a memory.
Gabriel feigned indifference to his cries of pain. “What did it say, Wolf?”
“I never read it,” he gasped.
“I find that difficult to believe.”
“It was heresy!”
“How did you know if you didn't read it?”
Gabriel walked over to one of the paintings, a reclining nude in the manner of Titian. Next to it was another nude, this one
by Bordone, one of Titian's pupils. There was also a landscape by Spitzweg and Roman ruins by Panini. None of the paintings,
however, was genuine. They were all twentieth-century copies.
“Who did your work for you?”
“A German art restorer named Gunther Haas.”
“He's a hack.”
“He charged me a small fortune.”
“Did he know where these paintings hung during the war?”
“We never discussed it.”
“I doubt Gunther would have cared much. He was always a bit of a Nazi.”
Gabriel looked at Eli Lavon, who seemed to be locked in a staring contest with the Wagner bust. After a moment he placed a
hand on the large wooden cabinet upon which it stood. “This is where the speakers for the projection system were hidden.”
He pointed toward the wall above. “And the screen was behind that tapestry. He could raise it when he wanted to show a film
to his guests.”
Gabriel sidestepped a long rectangular table and stood before the massive window. “And this could be lowered, right, Eli?
Unfortunately, when he drew up the plans for the Berghof, he put the garage directly beneath the great room. When the wind
was right, the stench of petrol was unbearable.” Gabriel glanced over his shoulder at Wolf. “I'm sure you didn't make the
“I have a separate garage,” boasted Wolf.
“Where's the button for the window?”
“On the wall to the right.”
Gabriel flipped the switch and the glass glided soundlessly into its pocket. Snow blew into the room. It was coming down harder
now. He watched a plane rising slowly into the sky above Salzburg, then cast a discreet glance at his wristwatch.
“You should probably be on your way, Allon. That Gulfstream you borrowed from Martin Landesmann is scheduled to leave for
Rome at two.” Wolf conjured an arrogant smile. “It's a forty-minute drive to the airport at least.”
“Actually, I was thinking about staying long enough to watch the Bundespolizei put you in handcuffs. The German far right
will never recover from this, Wolf. It's over.”
“That's what they said about us after the war. But now we're everywhere. The police, the intelligence and security services,
“But not the Reich Chancellery. And not the Apostolic Palace.”
“I own that conclave.”
“Not anymore.” Gabriel turned away from the open window and surveyed the room. It was beginning to make him feel ill. “This
must have taken a great deal of work.”
“The furnishings were the most difficult part. Everything had to be custom-made based on old photographs. The room is exactly
the way it was, with the exception of that table. There was usually a vase of flowers in the center. I use it to display cherished
They were framed in silver and precisely arranged. Wolf with his beautiful wife. Wolf with his two sons. Wolf at the tiller of
a sailboat. Wolf cutting the ceremonial ribbon at a new factory. Wolf kissing the ring of Bishop Hans Richter, superior general of the poisonous Order of St. Helena.
One photograph was larger than the others, and its frame was more ornate. It was a photograph of Adolf Hitler sitting at the
original table with a child, a boy of two or three, balanced on his knee. The retractable window was open. Hitler looked drawn
and gray. The boy looked frightened. Only the man wearing the uniform of a senior SS officer appeared pleased. Smiling, he
was standing with his arms akimbo and his head thrown back with obvious delight.
“I assume you recognize the FÃ¼hrer,” said Wolf.
“I recognize the SS officer, too.” Gabriel contemplated Wolf for a moment. “The resemblance is quite striking.”
Gabriel returned the photograph to the table. Another plane was clawing its way skyward above Salzburg. He checked his wristwatch.
It was approaching one o'clock. Time enough, he reckoned, for one last story.
Eli Lavon recognized
Wolf's father. He was Rudolf Fromm, a desk-murderer from Department IVB4 of the Reich Main Security Office, the division of
the SS that carried out the Final Solution. Fromm was an Austrian by birth and a Roman Catholic by religion, as was his wife,
Ingrid. They were both from Linz, the town along the Danube where Hitler was born. Wolf was their only child. His real name
was PeterâPeter Wolfgang Fromm. The photograph was taken in 1945 during Hitler's last visit to the Berghof. Wolf's mother
had been chatting off camera with Eva Braun when it was snapped. Exhausted, his hand trembling uncontrollably, Hitler had
refused to pose for another.
A month after the visit, with the Red Army closing in on Berlin, Rudolf Fromm stripped off his SS uniform and went
into hiding. He managed to evade capture and in 1948, with the help of a priest from the Order of St. Helena, made his way to Rome. There he acquired a Red Cross identification card and passage on a ship bound from Genoa to Buenos Aires. Fromm's son remained in Berlin with his mother until 1950, when she hanged herself in their squalid single-room apartment. Alone in the world, he was taken in by the same priest from the Order who had helped his father.
He entered the Order's seminary in Bergen and studied for the priesthood. At eighteen, however, he was visited by Father Schiller,
who told him that God had other plans for the brilliant, handsome son of a Nazi war criminal. He left the seminary with a
new name and entered Heidelberg University, where he studied mathematics. Father Schiller gave him the money to buy his first
company in 1964, and within a few years he was one of the richest men in Germany, the very embodiment of the country's postwar
“How much money did Father Schiller give you?”
“I believe it was five million deutsche marks.” Wolf hauled himself into one of the chairs next to the fire. “Or perhaps it
was ten. To be honest, I can't remember. It was a long time ago.”
“Did he tell you where the money came from? That the Order had extorted it from terrified Jews like Samuel Feldman in Vienna
and Emanuele Giordano in Rome?” Gabriel was silent for a moment. “Now is the part when you tell me you've never heard of them.”
“I suppose some of their money was used to help men like your father escape.”
“Rather ironic, don't you think?” Wolf smiled. “My father
handled the Feldman case personally. One member of the family slipped through his net. A daughter, I believe. Many years after the war, she told her sad story to a private Jewish investigator in Vienna. His name escapes me.”
“I believe it was Eli Lavon.”
“Yes, that's it. He tried to extort money from Bishop Richter.” Wolf laughed bitterly. “A fool's errand, if there ever was
one. He got what he deserved, too.”
“I take it you're referring to the bomb that destroyed his office in Vienna.”
Wolf nodded. “Two members of his staff were killed. Both Jews, of course.”
Gabriel looked at his old friend. He had never once seen him commit an act of violence. But he was certain that Eli Lavon,
if handed a loaded gun, would have used it to kill Jonas Wolf.
The German was inspecting the burns on his right hand. “He was quite the tenacious character, this man Lavon. The stereotypical
stiff-necked Jew. He spent several years trying to track down my father. He never found him, of course. He lived quite comfortably
in Bariloche. I visited him every two or three years. Because our names were different, no one ever suspected we were related.
He became quite devout in his old age. He was very contented.”
“He had no regrets?”
“For what?” Wolf shook his head. “My father was proud of what he did.”
“I suppose you were proud, too.”
“Very,” admitted Wolf.
Gabriel felt as though a knife had been thrust into his heart. He calmed himself before speaking again. “In my experience,
most children of Nazi war criminals don't share the fanaticism of their fathers. Oh, they have no love for the Jews, but they don't dream of finishing the job their parents started.”
“You obviously need to get out more, Allon. The dream is alive and well. It's not just some empty chant at a pro-Palestinian
rally any longer. You have to be blind not to see where all this is leading.”
“I see quite well, Wolf.”
“But not even the great Gabriel Allon can stop it. There isn't a country in Western Europe where it's safe to be a Jew. You've
also worn out your welcome in the United States, the other Jewish homeland. The white nationalists in America oppose immigration
and the dilution of their political power, but the real focus of their hatred is the Jews. Just ask the fellow who shot up
that synagogue in Pennsylvania. Or those fine young men who carried their torches through that college town in Virginia. Who
do you think they were emulating, with their haircuts and their Nazi salutes?”
“There's no accounting for taste.”
“Your Jewish sense of humor is perhaps your least endearing trait.”
“Right now, it's the only thing preventing me from blowing your brains out.” Gabriel returned to the seating area before the
fire. Almost nothing remained of the book. He took up the poker and stirred the embers. “What did it say, Wolf?”
“Wouldn't you like to know.”
Gabriel wheeled around and brought the heavy iron tool down with all his strength against Wolf's left elbow. The cracking
of bone was audible.
Wolf writhed in agony. “Bastard!”
“Come on, Wolf. You can do better than that.”
“I'm made of much sterner stuff than Estermann. You can beat me to a pulp with that thing, but I'll never tell you what was in that book.”
“What are you so afraid of?”
“The Roman Catholic Church cannot be wrong. And it most certainly cannot be deliberately wrong.”
“Because if the Church was wrong, your father would have been wrong, too. There would have been no religious justification
for his actions. He would have been just another genocidal maniac.”
Gabriel allowed the poker to fall from his grasp. He was suddenly exhausted. He wanted nothing more than to leave Germany
and never come back again. He would be forced to leave without the Gospel of Pilate. But he resolved that he would not leave
He looked down at Wolf. The German was clutching his ruined elbow. “You might find this hard to believe, but things are about
to get much worse for you.”
“Is there no way we can reach some sort of accommodation?”
“Only if you give me the Gospel of Pilate.”
“I burned it, Allon. It's gone.”
“In that case, I suppose there's no deal to be made. You might, however, want to consider doing at least one good deed before
they lock you up. Think of it as a mitzvah.”
“What do you have in mind?”
“It wouldn't be right for me to suggest something. It has to come from the heart, Wolf.”
Wolf closed his eyes in pain. “In my study you will find a rather fine river landscape, about forty by sixty centimeters.
It was painted by a minor Dutch Old Master namedâ”
“Jan van Goyen.”
Gabriel and Wolf both turned toward the sound of the voice. It belonged to Eli Lavon.
“How do you know that?” asked Wolf, astonished.
“A few years ago, a woman from Vienna told me a sad story.”
“Yes,” said Lavon. “I am.”
“Is she still alive?”
“I believe so.”
“Then please give her the painting. Behind it you'll find my safe. Take as much cash and gold as you can carry. The combination
Gabriel supplied it for him. “Eighty-seven, ninety-four, ninety-eight.”
Wolf glared at Estermann. “Is there anything you
It was Gabriel who answered. “He didn't know why you chose such a peculiar combination. The only explanation is that it was
your father's SS number. Eight, seven, nine, four, nine, eight. He must have joined in 1932, a few months before Hitler seized
“My father knew which way the wind was blowing.”
“You must have been very proud of him.”
“Perhaps you should be leaving, Allon.” Wolf managed a hideous smile. “They say the storm is going to get much worse.”
Gabriel removed the painting from its stretcher while Eli Lavon packed the bundles of banknotes and the gleaming gold
ingots into one of Wolf's costly titanium suitcases. When the safe was cleaned out, he placed the Luger inside, along with the HK 9mm they had taken from Karl Weber.
“Too bad we can't squeeze Wolf and Estermann in there as well.” Lavon closed the door and spun the tumbler. “What are we going
to do with them?”
“I suppose we could take them to Israel.”
“I'd rather walk to Israel than fly there with the likes of Jonas Wolf.”
“I thought for a minute you were going to kill him.”
“Me?” Lavon shook his head. “I've never been one for the rough stuff. But I did enjoy watching you hit him with that poker.”
Gabriel's phone pulsed. It was Uzi Navot calling from King Saul Boulevard. “Are you planning to stay for dinner?” he asked.
Gabriel laughed in spite of himself. “Can this wait? We're a bit busy at the moment.”
“I thought you should know that I just got a call from my new best friend, Gerhardt Schmidt. The Bundespolizei are on their
way to arrest Wolf. You might want to vacate the premises before they arrive.”
Gabriel killed the connection. “Time to go.”
Lavon closed the lid of the suitcase and with Gabriel's help tipped it onto its wheels. “It's a good thing we're flying on
a private plane. This thing must weigh seventy kilos at least.”
Together they wheeled the suitcase into the next room. Estermann and Karl Weber were tending to Wolf's injuries, watched over
by Mikhail and Oded. Yossi was inspecting one of the Gobelin tapestries. Yaakov was standing in front of the open window,
listening to the distant wail of sirens.
“They're definitely getting louder,” he said.
“That's because they're on their way here.” Gabriel beckoned to Mikhail and Oded and started toward the door.
Wolf called out to him from across the room. “Who do you think it will be?”
Gabriel stopped. “What's that, Wolf?”
“The conclave. Who's going to be the next pope?”
“They say Navarro is already ordering new furniture for the
“Yes,” said Wolf, smiling. “That's what they say.”