Beneath the Kremlin lies a shocking ancient truth.
And it's about to be stolen....
Since the times of Ivan the Terrible, generations of Russian leaders have turned the Kremlin into a fortress within a fortress, stocking its labyrinthine underground with secret vaults, elegant chambers, and priceless treasures. Now a master thief has the ultimate motivation to stage an assault on the Kremlin's inner sanctum. Two lives depend on it. Thousands of years of religious faith hinge on it. And a man's conscience, skill, and passion will not let him fail.
For Michael St. Pierre, history's most daring heist is only one piece of an intricate puzzle reaching from an ancient monastery in Scotland to a hideaway in Corsica--where a madman has built an empire of terror. Haunted by his own family secrets, and surrounded by the precious few people he can trust, Michael will take on a mission that will make him the most hunted man in the world. But when an astounding truth, buried deep beneath the Kremlin, erupts with shattering force, he may unleash a relic too dangerous to possess....
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December 25, 2007
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Excerpt from The Thieves of Faith by Richard Doetsch
Michael St. Pierre ran at a full tilt up rue de Mont-Blanc in Geneva, Switzerland, dodging cars and buses, streetlamps, and the homeless.
It was two in the morning, Thursday. The late winter snow unexpectedly blew in from the mountains and blanketed the already slick streets of Geneva in a fresh white covering. The storybook buildings, their colors muted by the fresh precipitation, raced by him in a blur as he ran harder than he had ever run before. It had only been forty-five seconds since he left the comfort of modern heat and the feeling had already drained from his ears. His deep blue eyes teared from the wind, each flake of snow like a razor digging into his face as his shock of brown hair whipped about in the chill nighttime air.
The heavy black bag on his back conspired to throw his balance off as he turned down the darkened street and cut through the vacant alleyways, working his way toward the historic district. He became lost in the shadows, his dark, tight coveralls blending with the night as his staccato bursts of breath echoed off the surrounding buildings.
He finally emerged at the back of 24, rue de Fleur. The nondescript five-story town house appeared vacant for the night. But Michael knew better than most that things of significance and value were often hidden behind the unexpected and mundane.
As the snow died off, Michael dug his fingers into the spaces between the granite blocks, testing his grip, thankful for his textured gloves that provided extra hold. He looked up toward the roof, the snow flurries making it seem as if the climb led into a ghostly white netherworld.
Michael focused his rambling mind, shutting out all distractions. He had less than a minute before the fireworks started; he had less than a minute to fulfill her dying wish.
Michael cinched the pack tight to his back and began his climb.
"Nascentes morimur-from the moment we are born, we die," the priest said as his dark hair was wind-whipped about his face. He was tall, his shoulders wide. His rough hands gripped a rosary, his thumb rubbing the first nub above the cross. Father Simon Bellatori looked more like a grizzled army colonel than a man of the cloth, his deep Italian voice sounding more appropriate delivering orders than benedictions. "Some think of the body as a prison binding us to our mortal existence while our souls are eternal, simply waiting to be released from this earthly flesh. Some think of life as finite but those with faith, those who believe, are filled with hope and the promise of Heaven. For that is where eternal life truly exists, that is where our sister Genevieve will forever reside."
The small group stood in an ancient graveyard on the outskirts of Rome. The gray Italian winter chilled Michael as he looked out toward the city, toward the Vatican in the distance. He bowed his head as he stood graveside listening to his friend's prayers. While the few mourners in attendance clutched missalettes and mass cards, Michael's hand was wrapped in a death grip around a manila envelope. It was emblazoned with a blue cruciform and had arrived exactly one week ago.
She had handed it to him seven days earlier as he opened his front door. She was seated on the front step of his house belly-rubbing Michael's large dogs, Hawk and Raven, who had greeted her in their usual barking frenzy.
"Well, good morning, sleepyhead," Genevieve said, looking up at him with a warm smile. She was dressed in a long white coat, her dark hair swept up in a bun. A single strand of pearls wrapped her wrist while an antique crucifix graced her neck. She was polished and refined, which made Michael grin even wider as he glanced at her on the snowy ground snuggling up to his two Bernese mountain dogs.
Michael stepped outside into the cool winter morning. "If I knew you were coming . . ."
"What, you would have shaved, cleaned the house?" Genevieve said in her soft Italian accent.
"Something like that." Michael sat down beside her. "Can I make you breakfast?"
She looked at him. Her eyes were warm but they couldn't hide sadness, an emotion Michael had never seen in his friend.
They had met on the occasion of Michael's wife's death. Genevieve had been sent by Father Simon Bellatori, the Vatican's archive liaison, to express the condolences of the Vatican and the Pope himself for the death of Mary St. Pierre.
The fact that Genevieve owned an orphanage was more than ironic; it was no coincidence that Simon had sent her. Michael was orphaned at birth and though he was adopted by loving parents who had since passed on, he felt a kindred spirit to those who had been abandoned . . . and those who opened their hearts and cared for the lost.