On the opposite side of the street, concealed in the shadows at the entrance of a narrow alleyway, stood a heavy-shouldered figure with a fedora hat and mackintosh raincoat. Eli Lavon could not walk the streets of Vienna, or any other city for that matter, without ritualistically checking his tail and recording faces that appeared too many times in too many disparate situations. It was a professional affliction. Even from a distance, and even in the poor light, he knew that he had seen the figure across the street several times during the last few days.
He sorted through his memory, almost as a librarian would sort through a card index, until he found references to previous sightings. Yes, here it is. The Judenplatz, two days ago. It was you who was following me after I had coffee with that reporter from the States. He returned to the index and found a second reference. The window of a bar along the Sterngasse. Same man, without the fedora hat, gazing casually over his pilsner as Lavon hurried through a biblical deluge after a perfectly wretched day at the office. The third reference took him a bit longer to locate, but he found it nonetheless. The Number Two streetcar, evening rush. Lavon is pinned against the doors by a florid-faced Viennese who smells of bratwurst and apricot schnapps. Fedora has somehow managed to find a seat and is calmly cleaning his nails with his ticket stub. He is a man who enjoys cleaning things, Lavon had thought at the time. Perhaps he cleans things for a living.
Lavon turned round and pressed the intercom. No response. Come on, girls. He pressed it again, then looked over his shoulder. The man in the fedora and mackintosh coat was gone.
A voice came over the speaker. Reveka.
"Did you lose the list already, Eli?"
Lavon pressed his thumb against the button.
"Get out! Now!"
A few seconds later, Lavon could hear the trample of footfalls in the corridor. The girls appeared before him, separated by a wall of glass. Reveka coolly punched in the code. Sarah stood by silently, her eyes locked on Lavon's, her hand on the glass.
He never remembered hearing the explosion. Reveka and Sarah were engulfed in a ball of fire, then were swept away by the blast wave. The door blew outward. Lavon was lifted like a child's toy, arms spread wide, back arched like a gymnast. His flight was dreamlike. He felt himself turning over and over again. He had no memory of impact. He knew only that he was lying on his back in snow, in a hailstorm of broken glass. "My girls," he whispered as he slid slowly into blackness. "My beautiful girls."
From A Death In Vienna by Daniel Silva, copyright 2004 Daniel Silva, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher. This excerpt ends on page 9 of the hardcover edition, at the end of Chapter One.
Blood at the Root
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