Brimstone - Douglas Preston


Lincoln Child would like to thank Bruce Swanson, Mark Mendel, Pat Allocco, Chris and Susan Yango, Jerry and Terry Hyland, Anthony Cifelli, M.D., Norman San Agustin, M.D., and Lee Suckno, M.D., for their friendship and assistance. Ongoing thanks to Special Agent Douglas Margini for his advice on New York, New Jersey, and federal law enforcement matters. Thanks to Jill Nowak for an insightful reading of the text. Bob Przybylski was very useful in nailing down some of the firearms details. Thanks also to Monsignor Bob Diacheck for reading and commenting on the manuscript. Thanks to my family, nuclear and extended, for putting up with an eccentric writer. Special thanks to my wife, Luchie, and my daughter, Veronica, for their love and support.

Douglas Preston is greatly indebted to Alessandro Lazzi, who kindly invited me to observe a wild boar hunt on his estate in the Tuscan Apennines. I thank Mario Spezi for providing much useful information on the workings of the Italian carabinieri and criminal investigation in general. I would like to express my appreciation to Mario Alfiero for his help with Neapolitan dialect. Some of the settings in the novel would not have been possible without the kind help of many people: in particular, the Cappellini family, owners of the Castello di Verrazzano in Greve; the Matta family, proprietors of Castello Vicchiomaggio; the monks of La Verna and Sacro Speco, Subiaco. I would also like to thank Niccolò Capponi for his help and our Italian translator, Andrea Carlo Cappi, for his advice and support. I thank Andrea Pinketts for the lending of his illustrious name. And last but not least, once again I thank my family, who can never be thanked enough: Isaac, Aletheia, Selene, and Christine.

And, as always, we want to thank in particular those people who make the Preston-Child novels possible: Jaime Levine, Jamie Raab, Eric Simonoff, Eadie Klemm, and Matthew Snyder.

In closing, we would like to distance ourselves from any misinterpretation of scripture by Wayne P. Buck, or any misapplication of the golden ratio by Professor Von Menck. All persons, police departments, corporations, institutions, governmental agencies, and locations both American and Italian mentioned in this novel are either fictitious or used fictitiously.

{ 1 }

Agnes Torres parked her white Ford Escort in the little parking area outside the hedge and stepped into the cool dawn air. The hedges were twelve feet high and as impenetrable as a brick wall; only the shingled peak of the big house could be seen from the street. But she could hear the surf thundering and smell the salt air of the invisible ocean beyond.

Agnes carefully locked the car—it paid to be careful, even in this neighborhood—and, fumbling with the massive set of keys, found the right one and stuck it into the lock. The heavy sheet-metal gate swung inward, exposing a broad expanse of green lawn that swept three hundred yards down to the beach, flanked by two dunes. A red light on a keypad just inside the gate began blinking, and she entered the code with nervous fingers. She had thirty seconds before the sirens went off. Once, she had dropped her keys and couldn’t punch in the code in time, and the thing had awakened practically the whole town and brought three police cars. Mr. Jeremy had been so angry she thought he would breathe fire. It had been awful.

Agnes punched the last button and the light turned green. She breathed a sigh of relief, locked the gate, and paused to cross herself. Then she drew out her rosary, held the first bead reverently between her fingers. Fully armed now, she turned and began waddling across the lawn on short, thick legs, walking slowly to allow herself time to intone the Our Fathers, the Hail Marys, and the Glory Bes in quiet Spanish. She always said a decade on her rosary when entering the Grove Estate.

The vast gray house loomed in front of her, a single eyebrow window in the roof peak frowning like the eye of a Cyclops, yellow against the steel gray of the house and sky. Seagulls circled above, crying restlessly.

Agnes was surprised. She never remembered that light on before. What was Mr. Jeremy doing in the attic at seven o’clock in the morning? Normally he didn’t get out of bed until noon.

Finishing her prayers, she replaced the rosary and crossed herself again: a swift, automatic gesture, made with a rough hand that had seen decades of domestic work. She hoped Mr. Jeremy wasn’t still awake. She liked