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Local benefactress and celebrated biographer Mary-Jo Stanton is a supplicant to death -- left lifeless on her knees in a patch of daffodils, a barbaric religious implement wrapped tightly around her neck. A clergyman has approached Peter McGarr, requesting that the Chief Superintendent quietly investigate this outrage that occurred at Barbastro, the slain grand lady's compoundlike Dublin estate. Murder is McGarr's business, but this one might be his undoing, as it draws him ever-closer to Opus Dei. A secret order...
Local benefactress and celebrated biographer Mary-Jo Stanton is a supplicant to death -- left lifeless on her knees in a patch of daffodils, a barbaric religious implement wrapped tightly around her neck. A clergyman has approached Peter McGarr, requesting that the Chief Superintendent quietly investigate this outrage that occurred at Barbastro, the slain grand lady's compoundlike Dublin estate. Murder is McGarr's business, but this one might be his undoing, as it draws him ever-closer to Opus Dei. A secret order of religious zealots devoted to enforcing the Lord's edicts no matter what the cost in money -- or human life -- it has ensnared the dedicated policeman in its lethal web. And now its madness is reaching out across a century to touch the place Peter McGarr is most vulnerable: the precious heart of his own adored family.
Two weeks later in Dublin, the same woman who had visited STASI headquarters used a master key to enter the office of Francis Xavier Foley in fashionable Fitzwilliam Square.
It was a quiet Sunday afternoon, and she assumed nobody would be about.
But she had only began her search when she heard a key in the lock andin stepped Foley himself, she knew from the photographs she had been given of the man.
"You there!" Foley roared. "What the devil are you doing in my files?"
"What does it look like to a devil?" she replied, continuing her search as though his presence did not matter. "Aren't you supposed to be on holiday?"
"Get out of that! Get out of that now!" A big man who weighed over seventeen stone in his fifty-second year, Foley rushed across the small room and lunged at her, only to find himself quickly down on the carpet with her foot on his throat.
"I could kill you now, but I need you to answer a few questions. Pick yourself up, close the door, and sit in that chair." The foot came away.
"Those files are protected by law," Foley complained as he rose to his feet unsteadily. His groin and neck were now galling him. "I'm a solicitor."
"No, you're not. You're a blackmailer."
"I should call the police." Foley managed to reach a chair.
"Go ahead. Here's the phone."
It landed on the floor by his feet.
"Wouldn't they be interested in what's in here?"
As the pain eased, Foley took in the woman — late thirties or early forties with close-cropped blond hair, blue eyes, and a brace of gold rings pierced through the edge of one ear.
It was hotin the tiny office that Foley leased mainly for the upmarket mailing address, and she had removed her jacket.
Wearing only a tank top and tight slacks the same pale color as her eyes, the woman was either an athlete or some class of weight lifter, he judged. Her shoulders and arms were taut with muscle, and the rest of her looked just as fit.
Not a stupid man, Foley quickly considered his options. He could ring up the police, and surely they would arrest her for illegal entry. But she could — and probably would — bring Garda investigators down on him as well. Foley did not want that.
It had taken much hard digging into the private lives of the country's elite to get him where he was. Now Foley had a house on Killiney Bay,another in the Azores, a trophy wife and two young children, a mistress, and the sure knowledge that a steady flow of untaxable readies would come streaming in to him for the rest of his life, with nothing more for him to do than to keep his identity hidden. And his threats frequent.
Of course, all that was on hold, at least for the moment. At the very least, Foley would have to move his office and sequester his files, in case she both took what she needed and informed the police. Wasn't it now wiser to discover whose dossier she was after? And how she had found him out? Then he would decide what to do.
"Can I help you with anything? What is it you're looking for?" he asked.
"Is the information in these files on your computer as well?" She pointed to the machine on a table behind the desk.
"If you mean, do I back up my files? I do, surely. Here and elsewhere. "Hearing the sound of his own deep voice emboldened Foley, and it now occurred to him how completely the woman would disrupt his life if he allowed her to leave the office.
"Mark me, woman," he blurted out. "When I discover who sent you, I'll double what I'm owed or expose them. Just for the fuck of it."
As though smitten by the word, she stopped her search, closed the filing cabinet drawer, and turned to him with a brittle smile creasing the corners of her mouth. "Never, ever utter that word again in my presence."
Fuck off, Foley wanted to say, but something fierce and final in her light blue eyes made him hold his tongue. It was as though, suddenly, her face had become a mask.
"You're a thoroughly despicable human being," she continued in an even but unnatural tone, stepping toward the computer. "For the better part of twenty blessed years you've been preying upon people for their weaknesses and indiscretions. It's disgusting and totally un-Christian the way you've behaved. Have y'never heard the word work?"
Foley tried to suss out her accent, which was neutral but with now and again a certain flat twang, as though Australian or American.
Unplugging the monitor, keyboard, and printer, she picked up the central processing unit and turned to him. "Tell me, how'd you get on to Mary-Jo?"
Foley's head went back, and a wave of adrenaline surged through his large body. Christ Almighty, he thought, it's them. Little wonder she had found him out and got a key to the office. The bastards were so well placed, and they were everywhere.
For months after Foley had flown to East Germany over a decade ago andpaid the equivalent of twenty thousand pounds Sterling to copy the Hopfwoman's file, he had agonized over blackmailing Mary-Jo Stanton just because of what was happening now.
Over and over, had told himself there were simply too many of them, and it was impossible to know who they were.
And with God on their side and their entire history of claiming to be...what? — the successors to the Knights Templar — they would murder him without compunction if they found him out. So his reason had told him...