Alexandria Link : A Novel
by Berry, Steve






When his son is kidnapped and his bookshop destroyed, Cotton Malone embarks on a desperate race against time to uncover clues to the whereabouts of the long-lost Library of Alexandria, a priceless treasury of thousands of ancient manuscripts that vanished more than 1,500 years ago, unaware that finding the lost cache could have dire consequences for the balance of world power. 500,000 first printing.





Steve Berry is the New York Times bestselling author of The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room. His books have been translated into thirty-five languages and sold in thirty-four countries. A lawyer who has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Russia, he lives on the Georgia coast. He is currently at work on his next novel. Visit his website at www.steveberry.org.





Berry, author of several big-selling high-concept thrillers, including The Templar Legacy (2006) and The Third Secret (2005), is back with another paranoid fantasy for fans who like their heroes to face unimaginable dangers in a variety of glamorous locations. Berry's hero, Cotton Malone (recently retired from the Department of Justice's Magellan Billet, which specializes in extra-sensitive international investigations), has reinvented himself as a seller of rare books in Copenhagen. Trouble, of course, finds him even in Denmark-first in the person of his ex-wife, who bears the news that their son has been kidnapped. Then the kidnappers convince Malone of their seriousness by torching his bookstore. The central conflict here comes from the fact that what the kidnappers want-"the Alexandria link," the key to locating the remains of the vanished library of Alexandria-is the one thing Malone, who knows the whereabouts of the link, cannot give them. So, with the conflict firmly established, and the villains showing their mettle, the plot is off and running across the globe, the story driven by a series of short chapters, each acting as a little time bomb. Trite characters and a formulaic plot (drawing, yet again, on The Da Vinci Code) get in the way, but Berry does make intriguing use of ancient history, and the action certainly zooms along. Fun reading if you keep moving and don't take time to digest. ((Reviewed November 15, 2006)) Copyright 2006 Booklist Reviews.





European billionaires, Israelis, Saudis and Americans shoot it out in an international search for ancient manuscripts that could drastically alter the map of the Middle East.Having rested up from their great labors, the cast of The Templar Legacy (2006) faces new perils as they are thrown headlong into yet another there's-been-a-huge-misunderstanding religious mystery. The ceaseless action begins with the kidnapping of the teenage son of former American secret-agent-turned-bookseller Cotton Malone, whose understandably panicked ex-wife has jetted to Copenhagen, where he now lives. There is the usual warning to keep the police out of it, but Malone has enough sense to enlist the help of his elderly but capable billionaire pal Henrik Thorvaldsen after shadowy evil-doers torch the bookstore as a warning. The kidnapper is Dominick Sabre, murderous right-hand man of elderly but malevolent billionaire Alfred Hermann, current big cheese in the Order of the Golden Fleece, a cabal of super-rich European moguls with a taste for world-scenario management. Thorvaldsen, a Jew, is also in the Order, giving him access to Hermann's plotting, which has to do with the possibility that much of the great library at Alexandria was shifted offsite before its destruction. Amid the ancient papyri and scrolls may be some early Old Testaments that point to serious geographic misunderstandings over the millennia, mistakes that would undermine the claims of the world's three monotheistic religions. Given a deadline-or the kid dies-to find his old pal George Haddad, who holds the clues to the location of the library, Malone jets to London, ex-wife in tow, in time to see Haddad assassinated, which forces him into an uneasy alliance with the treacherous Sabre. In the U.S., meanwhile, Malone's former boss uncovers involvement at the Highest Level. The president's life is in danger.Fast action and wild plotting largely mask lackluster prose in Berry's latest what-if thriller. Copyright Kirkus 2006 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.





ONE

Copenhagen, Denmark

Tuesday, October 4
The present

1:45 am

Cotton Malone stared straight into the face of trou- ble. Outside his bookshop’s open front door stood his ex-wife, the last person on earth he’d expected to see. He quickly registered panic in her tired eyes, remembered the pounding that had awoken him a few minutes before, and instantly thought of his son.

“Where’s Gary?” he asked.

“You son of a bitch. They took him. Because of you. They took him.” She lunged forward, her closed fists crashing down onto his shoulders. “You sorry son of a bitch.” He grabbed her wrists and stopped the attack as she started crying. “I left you because of this. I thought this kind of thing was over.”

“Who took Gary?” More sobs were his answer. He kept hold of her arms. “Pam. Listen to me. Who took Gary?”

She stared at him. “How the hell am I supposed to know?”

“What are you doing here? Why didn’t you go to the police?”

“Because they said not to. They said if I went anywhere near the police, Gary was dead. They said they would know, and I believed them.”

“Who’s they?”

She wrenched her arms free, her face flooded with anger. “I don’t know. All they said was for me to wait two days, then come here and give you this.” She rummaged through her shoulder bag and produced a phone. Tears continued to rain down her cheeks. “They said for you to go online and open your e-mail.”

Had he heard right? Go online and open your e-mail?

He flipped open the phone and checked the frequency. Enough megahertz to make it world-capable. Which made him wonder. Suddenly he felt vulnerable. Højbro Plads was quiet. At this late hour no one roamed the city square.

His senses came alive.

“Get inside.” And he yanked her into the shop and closed the door. He hadn’t switched on any lights.

“What is it?” she asked, her voice shredded by fear.

He faced her. “I don’t know, Pam. You tell me. Our son has apparently been taken by God-knows-who, and you wait two days before telling a soul about it? That didn’t strike you as insane?”

“I wasn’t going to jeopardize his life.”

“And I would? How have I ever done that?”

“By being you,” she said in a frigid tone, and he instantly recalled why he no longer lived with her.

A thought occurred to him. She’d never been to Denmark. “How did you find me?”

“They told me.”

“Who the hell is they?”

“I don’t know, Cotton. Two men. Only one did the talking. Tall, dark-haired, flat face.”

“American?”

“How would I know?”

“How did he speak?”

She seemed to catch hold of herself. “No. Not American. They had accents. European.”

He motioned with the phone. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

“He said to open your e-mail and it would be explained.”

She glanced nervously around at the shelves cast in shadows. “Upstairs, right?”

Gary would have told her he lived over the store. He certainly hadn’t. They’d spoken only once since he’d retired from the Justice Department and left Georgia last year, and that had been two months back, in August, when he’d brought Gary home after their summer visit. She’d coldly told him that Gary was not his natural son. Instead the boy was the product of an affair from sixteen years ago, her response to his own infidelity. He’d wrestled with that demon ever since and had not, as yet, come to terms with its implications. One thing he’d decided at the time—he had no intention of ever speaking to Pam Malone again. Whatever needed to be said would be said between him and Gary.

But things seemed to have changed.

“Yeah,” he said. “Upstairs.”

They entered his apartment, and he sat at the desk. He switched on his laptop and waited for the programs to boot. Pam had finally grabbed hold of her emotions. She was like that. Her moods ran in waves. Soaring highs and cavernous lows. She was a lawyer, like him, but where he’d worked for the government, she handled high-stakes trials for Fortune 500 companies that could afford to pay her firm’s impressive fees. When she’d first gone to law school he’d thought the decision a reflection of him, a way for them to share a life together. Later he’d learned it was a way for her to gain independence.

That was Pam.

The laptop was ready. He accessed his mailbox.

Empty.

“Nothing here.”

Pam rushed toward him. “What do you mean? He said to open your e-mail.”

“That was two days ago. And by the way, how did you get here?”

“They had a ticket, already bought.”

He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Are you nuts? What you did was give them a two-day head start.”

“Don’t you think I know that?” she yelled. “You think I’m a complete idiot? They told me my phones were tapped and I was being watched. If I varied from their instructions, even a little, Gary was dead. They showed me a picture.” She caught herself and tears flowed anew. “His eyes . . . oh, his eyes.” She broke down again. “He was scared.”

His chest throbbed and his temples burned. He’d intentionally left behind a life of daily danger to find something new. Had that life now hunted him down? He grabbed the edge of the desk. It would do no good for both of them to fall apart. If whoever they were wanted Gary dead, then he was already. No. Gary was a bargaining chip—a way to apparently gain his undivided attention.

The laptop dinged.

His gaze shot to the screen’s lower-right corner: receiving mail. Then he saw greetings appear on the from line and your son’s life noted as the subject. He maneuvered the cursor and opened the e-mail.

YOU HAVE SOMETHING I WANT. THE ALEXANDRIA LINK. YOU HID IT AND YOU’RE THE ONLY PERSON ON EARTH WHO KNOWS WHERE TO FIND IT. GO GET IT. YOU HAVE 72 HOURS. WHEN YOU HAVE IT, HIT THE NUMBER 2 BUTTON ON THE PHONE. IF I DON’T HEAR FROM YOU AT THE END OF 72 HOURS, YOU WILL BE CHILDLESS. IF DURING THAT TIME YOU SCREW WITH ME, YOUR SON WILL LOSE A VITAL APPENDAGE. 72 HOURS. FIND IT AND WE’LL TRADE.

Pam was standing behind him. “What’s the Alexandria Link?”

He said nothing. He couldn’t. He was indeed the only person on earth who knew, and he’d given his word.

“Whoever sent that message knows all about it. What is it?”

He stared at the screen and knew there’d be no way to trace the message. The sender, like himself, surely knew how to use black holes—computer servers that randomly routed e-mails through an electronic maze. Not impossible to follow, but difficult.

He stood from the chair and ran a hand through his hair. He’d meant to get a haircut yesterday. He worked the sleep from his shoulders and sucked a few deep breaths. He’d earlier slipped on a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt that hung open, exposing a gray undershirt, and he was suddenly chilled by fear.

“Dammit, Cotton—”

“Pam, shut up. I have to think. You’re not helping.”

“I’m not helping? What the—”

The cell phone rang. Pam lunged for it, but he cut her off and said, “Leave it.”

“What do you mean? It could be Gary.”

“Get real.”

He scooped up the phone after the third ring and pushed talk.

“Took long enough,” the male voice said in his ear. He caught a Dutch accent. “And please, no if-you-hurt-that-boy-I’m-going-to-kill-you bra- vado. Neither one of us has the time. Your seventy-two hours have already started.”

Malone stayed silent, but he recalled something he learned long ago. Never let the other side set the bargain. “Stick it up your ass. I’m not going anywhere.”

“You take a lot of risks with your son’s life.”

“I see Gary. I talk to him. Then, I go.”

“Take a look outside.”

He rushed to the window. Four stories down Højbro Plads was still quiet, except for two figures standing on the far side of the cobbled expanse.

Both silhouettes shouldered weapons.

Grenade launchers.

“Don’t think so,” the voice said in his ear.

Two projectiles shot through the night and obliterated the windows below him.

Both exploded.






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