Ivan emerged again, breathing
hard as silently as he could. Then he
followed in the direction he had indicated the others should take. He overtook them forcing open another manhole
cover. With Ivan’s strength, the cover was soon open, and they were out onto the
The next plan, hastily made,
was this. They would close the
manhole. They would move a car on top of
the cover. Then the others would arrive. As it turned out, the order was
While Tracy shoved the cover over the hole Hapgood,
Jon and Ivan ran to the
nearest parked car. They bounced the car
on its springs, and as it unweighted itself they
yanked it toward the manhole. Moving
foot by foot, they brought the car to the hole.
As it turned out the manhole cover was never completely in place. A hand appeared from the hole just before it
was closed, and the next thing, one tire of the car was in place. Instead of resting on the cover, the tire
flipped the cover on edge and dropped into the hole.
They looked at the result and
decided that it was good enough for their purposes. A blast of machinegun fire came out of the
hole, but the car would present sufficient obstacle to prevent emergence from
the sewers for the next few minutes while the mercenaries figured out how to
remove the car or found another way out.
The four took to their heels.
Two or three blocks away,
they ducked into the shelter of another alley and tried to decide where to go
next. Aden, for the moment, seemed to be safe. What they needed to do was put some distance
between themselves and Paris. There were a
number of possibilities.
Most obvious but least
appealing was to strike out by foot overland, making their way through the city
and at last crossing yards and then fields.
But this could hardly be done without attracting the attention of the
police. The French Gendarmes could be
expected to be sympathetic. After all, Turelli was by now being sought worldwide. But the police would communicate by radio,
and Turelli’s men would be monitoring it. With the best of intentions, the police would
get them killed.
There were some other
possibilities. Rail stations and the
airport would be watched. Car rental
places would be under the scrutiny of an enemy they now had reason to fear had
almost unlimited resources. They might
hire a cab to take them to another town, but that would again involve a radio
communication that would reveal a break in routine.
They had minutes in which to
disappear. It did not help that they
were soaked with sewage, although Jon had been
able to keep the briefcase above water. Ivan abruptly ended the debate with a gesture and started to run. In a few blocks they reached the Seine.
At the level of the Sorbonne
the Seine is divided by islands. There are walks along the river on both sides
of the islands and on each side on both sides of the division of the river, and
there are walks at street level as well as below at close to river level, eight
walks in all. They dashed down steps to
the lower level and kept from sight as best they could, walking southward and
east. When they could, they went up and
crossed the river and then descended to the lower walk on the other side.
They were all making heavy
weather of it, particularly Hapgood, but after an hour they reached
the Marne River and turned to walk upstream. Soon enough they found what Ivan had hoped for. A canal boat was
moored near the street. It took all of Hapgood’s French, but at last the canal boat operator
agreed to take them.
It was a regular tourist
canal boat, idle at this time of year.
It had all the amenities for living aboard, including a washer and
drier. The boatman pulled up buckets
from the river so they could wash the clatches of
filth off and then go below. There they
showered and wrapped in blankets while their clothes soaked in detergent. As soon as the boatman felt things were under
control he cast off.
By the time dark fell they
were clean and dry and warming up below decks.
The engine gave a sturdy growl as the canal boat forged its way up the Marne
toward open country and the romantic canal system of France.
While the four had been
living through their adventures in Paris, Ali Kamali had been going around Florence.
He walked along the Ponte Vechio, the covered bridge over the Arno, and bought a leather bag he didn’t need just for the
pleasure of haggling over it. The place
reminded him of a traditional Arab souk with the same
informality and cheerful energy.
He visited the graves of Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Galileo. It
had been Galileo’s use of the telescope and the astronomical discoveries he
made with it that had started the sequence which had finally toppled the
authority of Ptolemy. Roughly
speaking Galileo had discovered that things move, Copernicus described the universe the way most people thought about it, as
planets moving about the sun in circles.
Tycho Brache had made careful measurements of the planets, the
first highly accurate scientific measurements ever made, and found that the universe
of Copernicus did not agree with observation. He invented the field of astrometry, the
science of measuring the distance to the stars.
Just as the trees of a forest seem to move with respect to each other as
one walks among them, if the earth truly circled the sun, and if the stars were
scattered through space, the stars should shift their apparent spacing as the
earth made its annual cycle. Brache found no such change and was able, knowing the
accuracy of his measurements and the diameter of the earth’s supposed orbit, to
calculate the minimum distance to the stars.
The answer he came up with was so preposterously large that he rejected
it as impossible and concluded that Ptolemy was right in essence.
Wrong for the right reasons, Brache invented a structure for the universe that would
account for his observations. For
centuries his model was mocked as geometrically impossible until some time
around the turn of the third millennium somebody made a cardboard cutout of it,
and in fact it works just fine.
Kepler used Brache’s observations
to describe a universe in which the planets travel in ellipses, ovals, and move
faster as they come closer to the sun. Newton’s invention of gravity did not change those
predictions, but Newton’s system was simpler and more generally applicable.
Three of the geniuses, Galileo,
Kepler and Newton, made important contributions to the design of
telescopes. Tycho Brache used an iron bar several yards long for his own
work. He had a silver nose to replace
one he lost in a duel. The duel was over
which of the duelists was the more brilliant.
It occurred to Kamali that Allah might be
letting the infidels survive just to keep everyone else amused.
It seemed to Kamali that despite Western ideas about individual accomplishment,
all the “great men” somehow seemed to become great before they did whatever it
was they were great for. Galileo had
been a professor. Copernicus had been a doctor of canon law, a lecturer in astronomy and a
physician before he even began to think about the universe. Brache had royal
patronage. Kepler was given sole access to Brache’s
Newton clearly had royal favor even as a young man who had
accomplished nothing. The king ordered
that the Lucasian professor, which Newton was, would not have to take holy orders. The only reason for this was that Newton himself was an Arian, who did not believe in the
Trinity. Without the royal nod, Newton would have lost his job.
It did not seem so important
to Ali. If a human has a body, mind and spirit, why not God? Granted that in Western scripture there was
little or no support for the Trinity, it was nothing but a description – God
the Father being the creating mind, Christ the Son the physical body and the
Holy Spirit of the same essence as the spirit of man with whom It communed.
Yet over such things jobs
were lost, reputations ruined and wars fought.
Even the difference between
Islam and Christianity seemed subtle.
Most Muslims regarded Christ with as much awe as Christians did. It was just that they could not bear to
believe that he had actually been executed in the way the Christian Bible describes.
On the other hand it was
perfectly clear both to Muslim and to Christian that God had forbidden anyone to make a likeness of
anything. Yet look at what was here in Florence. For Florence was the diadem in the crown of the renaissance. It was here, not Rome where the most dazzling collection of art
resided. To these galleries had come northern
Europeans, accustomed to no more than an occasional rough woodcut in a book, to
be overwhelmed by the glory, the perfusion and the perfection of human and
nature in paint of the most commanding hue.
They had got museumitis so bad, these early visitors,
that they had staggered onto the street and vomited out of emotional
intensity. Then they would go back in
and look some more. It was idolatry
above and beyond the call of sanity.
The single statue the David, a towering stone depiction of a young boy facing a giant, would have
made any other city famous. Ali, who
knew a little about music, noticed that one hand, that hung
in repose by the thigh, was not in the usual position of cup shape. Instead the knuckles at the base of the
fingers were straight and the other knuckles bent hard.
David had been a harpist.
And the discipline of the harp develops enormous strength in the
intrinsic muscles of the hand. The tone
of those muscles at rest draws the hand into a claw. Michelangelo had known it. It is said that there were more recognizable
and real anatomical features in Michelangelo’s art than there are described by
modern medicine. It is one thing to sin,
but who would ever work that hard at it?
They would swallow such
blatant misconduct and still become murderous over technical points of
For that matter, the Western
alphabet is derived, whether from Egyptian hieroglyphic or Mesopotamian
cuneiform, from pictures of little animals and objects. A page of text has more idols than a Hindu
temple. Yet the western mind regards it
And then there was the
Western infatuation with the Arab invention alcohol. Although good Muslims are expected not to
drink alcohol, in fact the only statement the Prophet had made was to abstain
from date wine. That was probably because
of its use in pagan orgies at the time Mohammed was converting the people from their idolatrous
past. Yet it only made sense to
abstain. Alcohol never seemed to do a
lot for anyone.
Of course the arak distilled in Beirut was still the best, if Ali was to believe his friends. But
these Westerners had produced a bewildering, not to say intoxicating, array of
beverages. That was in keeping with
their undeniable vitality. A trip though
a Western department store was enough to convince any rational being that there
were limits to human cupidity. No one
could ever want to possess all the clothing and other allures of a single great
store. And yet they would pack them in
side by side so that shoppers could go from one to the next.
Of course the great souk of Istanbul
was better shopping.
But the West had elevated
drinking to the level of a religious obligation. They drank wine in their communion at least
symbolically. How was one to understand
that? What was it in wine that seemed to
tie them to a perception of God? It was
not the alcohol. That was the same stuff
as in demon rum. But religious
observance both ancient and pious tied them to it. And the refinements of its brewing were
career upon career for brilliant men.
One Frenchman had even modestly remarked that his own nose was no better
than that of an average bloodhound.
That might not have been
completely true. According to Aden, the most conspicuous genetic advances humans had
made upon their common ancestor with the chimpanzee had been in the sense of
Genetically humans are more
similar than their appearance would suggest.
Thus human evolution, the genetic changed wrought by selection of
favored genes, had been most intense in the matter of appearance and, according
to the new information since the human genome project was completed, in the
matter of smell.
The thing the two had in
common was that they permitted the most subtle recognition of other
humans. And the point of that was quite
critical. Perhaps the band that Aden was
now helping were right, that mating had to be extremely exclusive because of
the chagreen of infertility otherwise. Or perhaps it was simply a good thing if
people could tell each other apart.
Ali visited the rooms of Savonarola. It was a tidy
apartment overlooking the palazzo. There
was something about the light in the room that made people’s faces seem more
luminous, more transparent and more sculpted than under most circumstances. It would not do to be superstitious, but Ali felt he was in the presence of something that was not evil. In spite of all the turbulence and
confrontation of Savonarola’s life, there must have been deep down something very
good about him.
Savonarola himself obviously thought so. For not everyone in Florence was happy about the wealth and opulence of the
Italian Renaissance. He was a Dominican
monk, who raged and ranted like a Protestant against the corruption he found in
the life of the city around himself, in the licentiousness of the lay folk and
the worldliness of a clergy which should have been otherwise.
Dominican exhorted, and people complied.
Books, paintings and clothing, the finest perhaps the world had ever
produced, had been heaped in bonfires in the streets of Florence. In typical
infidel fashion, he pushed his ideals past the point of acceptability, amassed
powerful and implacable enemies and died by hanging after cruel torture. His body was burned. In a way that was only fitting, for
Savonarola himself had been another of the unequaled
ornaments of this great city.
There have been 6,060
visitors counted so far.