The Charlemagne Pursuit


With each book I’ve recognized all of the wonderful folks at Random House. I make no exception now. So to Gina Centrello, Libby McGuire, Cindy Murray, Kim Hovey, Christine Cabello, Beck Stvan, Carole Lowenstein, and everyone in Promotions and Sales—a heartfelt and sincere thanks. Also, a bow to Laura Jorstad, who has copyedited all of my novels. No writer could ask for a better group of professionals to work with. You’re all, without question, the best.

A special thanks to the friendly people in Aachen, who answered my persistent questions with great patience. With long-overdue thanks, I want to mention Ron Chamblin who owns the Chamblin Bookmine in Jacksonville, Florida, where, for years, I’ve performed the majority of my research. It’s an amazing place. Thanks, Ron, for creating it. And a nod to our Aussie Mum, Kate Taperell, who offered her keen insight into how folks talk Down Under.

Finally, this book is dedicated to my agent, Pam Ahearn, and my editor, Mark Tavani. In 1995 Pam signed me as a client, then endured 7 years and 85 rejections before finding us a home. What patience. Then there’s Mark. Such a chance he took on a crazy lawyer who wanted to write books.

But we all survived.

I owe Pam and Mark more than any one person could ever repay in a lifetime.

Thank you.

For everything.





“Depth?” he called out.

“Six hundred feet.”

“What’s beneath us?”

“Another two thousand feet of cold water.”

His gaze raked the active dials, gauges, and thermometers. In the tiny conn the helmsman sat to his right, the planesman squeezed in on the left. Both men kept their hands locked on control sticks. Power flickered on and off.

“Slow to two knots.”

The submarine lurched in the water.

The alarm stopped. The conn went dark.

“Captain, report from reactor room. Circuit breaker has blown on one of the control rods.”

He knew what had happened. The safety mechanisms built into the temperamental thing had automatically dropped the other rods—the reactor had scrammed, shut itself down. Only one possible course of action. “Switch to batteries.”

Dim emergency lights came on. His engineering officer, Flanders, a neat and deliberate professional on whom he’d come to depend, stepped into the conn. Malone said, “Talk to me, Tom.”

“I don’t know how bad it is or how long it’s going to take to fix, but we need to lighten the electrical load.”

They’d lost power before, several times in fact, and he knew batteries could provide temporary power for as long as two days provided they were careful. His crew had trained rigorously for just this kind of situation, but once a reactor scrammed the manual said it had to be restarted within an hour. If more time passed, then the boat had to be taken to the nearest port.

And that was fifteen hundred miles away.

“Shut down everything we don’t need,” he said.

“Captain, it’s going to be hard holding her steady,” the helmsman noted.

He understood Archimedes’ law. An object that weighed the same as an equal volume of water would neither sink nor float. Instead it would remain level at neutral buoyancy. Every sub functioned by that basic rule, kept underwater with engines that drove it forward. Without power, there’d be no engines, no diving planes, no momentum. All problems that could easily be alleviated by surfacing, but above them wasn’t open ocean. They were pinned beneath a ceiling of ice.

“Captain, engine room reports a minor leak in the hydraulic plant.”

“Minor leak?” he asked. “Now?”

“It was noticed earlier, but with the power down they request permission to shut a valve to stop the leak so a hose can be replaced.”

Logical. “Do it. And I hope that’s the end of the bad news.” He turned toward the sonar tech. “Anything in front of us?”

Submariners all took their cues from others who’d sailed before them, and those who’d first fought frozen seas passed down two lessons. Never hit anything frozen if you don’t have to and, if that’s not possible, place the bow to the ice, push gently, and pray.

“Clean ahead,” sonar reported.

“Starting to drift,” the helmsman said.

“Compensate. But go easy on the power.”

The sub’s nose suddenly pitched down.

“What the hell?” he muttered.

“Stern planes have gone to full dive,” yelled the planesman, who rose to his feet and pulled back on the control stick. “I can’t get them to respond.”

“Blount,” Malone hollered. “Help him.”

The man fled the sonar station and rushed to assist. The downward angle increased. Malone gripped the plotting table as everything that wasn’t attached tumbled forward in