Pacing the library, Katherine Solomon pulled back the sleeve of her lab coat and checked her watch. She was not a woman accustomed to waiting, but at the moment, she felt as if her whole world were on hold. She was waiting for Trishs search-spider results, she was waiting for word from her brother, and also, she was waiting for a callback from the man who was responsible for this entire troubling situation.
I wish he hadnt told me, she thought. Normally, Katherine was extremely careful about making new acquaintances, and although she had met this man for the first time only this afternoon, he had earned her trust in a matter of minutes. Completely.
His call had come this afternoon while Katherine was at home enjoying her usual Sunday-afternoon pleasure of catching up on the weeks scientific journals.
Ms. Solomon? an unusually airy voice had said. My name is Dr. Christopher Abaddon. I was hoping I might speak to you for a moment about your brother?
Im sorry, who is this? she had demanded. And how did you get my private cell-phone number?
Dr. Christopher Abaddon?
Katherine did not recognize the name.
The man cleared his throat, as if the situation had just become awkward. I apologize, Ms. Solomon. I was under the impression your brother had told you about me. Im his doctor. Your cell number was listed as his emergency contact.
Katherines heart skipped. Emergency contact? Is something wrong?
No . . . I dont think so, the man said. Your brother missed an appointment this morning, and
I cant reach him on any of his numbers. He never misses appointments without calling, and Im just a little worried. I hesitated to phone you, but
No, no, not at all, I appreciate the concern. Katherine was still trying to place the doctors name. I havent spoken to my brother since yesterday morning, but he probably just forgot to turn on his cell. Katherine had recently given him a new iPhone, and he still hadnt taken the time to figure out how to use it.
You say youre his doctor? she asked. Does Peter have an illness hes keeping from me?
There was a weighty pause on the line. Im terribly sorry, but Ive obviously just made a rather serious professional error by calling you. Your brother told me you were aware of his visits to me, but now I see thats not the case.
My brother lied to his doctor? Katherines concern was now growing steadily. Is he sick?
Im sorry, Ms. Solomon, doctor-patient confidentiality precludes me from discussing your brothers condition, and Ive already said too much by admitting he is my patient. Im going to hang up now, but if you hear from him today, please ask him to call me so I know hes okay.
Wait! Katherine said. Please tell me whats wrong with Peter!
Dr. Abaddon exhaled, sounding displeased with his mistake. Ms. Solomon, I can hear youre upset, and I dont blame you. Im sure your brother is fine. He was in my office just yesterday.
Yesterday? And hes scheduled again today? This sounds urgent.
The man heaved a sigh. I suggest we give him a little more time before we
Im coming by your office right now, Katherine said, heading for the door. Where are you located?
Dr. Christopher Abaddon? Katherine said. I can look up your address myself, or you can simply give it to me. Either way, Im coming over.
The doctor paused. If I meet with you, Ms. Solomon, would you please do me the courtesy of saying nothing to your brother until Ive had a chance to explain my misstep?
Thank you. My office is in Kalorama Heights. He gave her an address.
Twenty minutes later, Katherine Solomon was navigating the stately streets of Kalorama Heights. She had phoned all of her brothers numbers with no reply. She did not feel overly
concerned about her brothers whereabouts, and yet, the news that he was secretly seeing a doctor . . . was troubling.
When Katherine finally located the address, she stared up at the building in confusion. This is a doctors office?
The opulent mansion before her had a wrought-iron security fence, electronic cameras, and lush grounds. As she slowed to double-check the address, one of the security cameras rotated toward her, and the gate swung open. Tentatively, Katherine drove up the driveway and parked next to a six-car garage and a stretch limo.
What kind of doctoris this guy?
As she got out of her car, the front door of the mansion opened, and an elegant figure drifted out onto the landing. He was handsome, exceptionally tall, and younger than she had imagined. Even so, he projected the sophistication and polish of an older man. He was impeccably dressed in a dark suit and tie, and his thick blond hair was immaculately coiffed.
Ms. Solomon, Im Dr. Christopher Abaddon, he said, his voice a breathy whisper. When they shook hands, his skin felt smooth and well tended.
Katherine Solomon, she said, trying not to stare at his skin, which was unusually smooth and bronzed. Is he wearing makeup?
Katherine felt a growing disquiet as she stepped into the homes beautifully appointed foyer. Classical music played softly in the background, and it smelled as if someone had burned incense. This is lovely, she said, although I expected more of . . . an office.
Im fortunate to work out of my home. The man led her into a living room, where there was a crackling fire. Please make yourself comfortable. Im just steeping some tea. Ill bring it out, and we can talk. He strode toward the kitchen and disappeared.
Katherine Solomon did not sit. Female intuition was a potent instinct that she had learned to trust, and something about this place was making her skin crawl. She saw nothing that looked anything like any doctors office she had ever seen. The walls of this antique-adorned living room were covered with classical art, primarily paintings with strange mythical themes. She paused before a large canvas depicting the Three Graces, whose nude bodies were spectacularly rendered in vivid colors.
Thats the original Michael Parkes oil. Dr. Abaddon appeared without warning beside her, holding a tray of steaming tea. I thought wed sit by the fire? He led her over to the living room and offered her a seat. Theres no reason to be nervous.
Im not nervous, Katherine said entirely too quickly.
He gave her a reassuring smile. Actually, it is my business to know when people are nervous.
I beg your pardon?
Im a practicing psychiatrist, Ms. Solomon. That is my profession. Ive been seeing your brother for almost a year now. Im his therapist.
Katherine could only stare. My brother is in therapy?
Patients often choose to keep their therapy to themselves, the man said. I made a mistake by calling you, although in my defense, your brother did mislead me.
I . . . I had no idea.
I apologize if I made you nervous, he said, sounding embarrassed. I noticed you studying my face when we met, and yes, I do wear makeup. He touched his own cheek, looking self-conscious. I have a dermatological condition, which I prefer to hide. My wife usually puts the makeup on for me, but when shes not here, I have to rely on my own heavy touch.
Katherine nodded, too embarrassed to speak.
And this lovely hair . . . He touched his lush blond mane. A wig. My skin condition affected my scalp follicles as well, and all my hair jumped ship. He shrugged. Im afraid my one sin is vanity.
Apparently mine is rudeness, Katherine said.
Not at all. Dr. Abaddons smile was disarming. Shall we start over? Perhaps with some tea?
They sat in front of the fire and Abaddon poured tea. Your brother got me in the habit of serving tea during our sessions. He said the Solomons are tea drinkers.
Family tradition, Katherine said. Black, please.
They sipped their tea and made small talk for a few minutes, but Katherine was eager for information about her brother. Why was my brother coming to you? she asked. And why didnt he tell me? Admittedly, Peter had endured more than his fair share of tragedy in his lifelosing his father at a young age, and then, within a span of five years, burying his only son and then his mother. Even so, Peter had always found a way to cope.
Dr. Abaddon took a sip of tea. Your brother came to me because he trusts me. We have a bond beyond that of normal patient and doctor. He motioned to a framed document near the fireplace. It looked like a diploma, until Katherine spied the double-headed phoenix.
Youre a Mason? The highest degree, no less.
Peter and I are brothers of sorts.
You must have done something important to be invited into the thirty-third degree.
Not really, he said. I have family money, and I give a lot of money to Masonic charities.
Katherine now realized why her brother trusted this young doctor. A Mason with family money, interested in philanthropy and ancient mythology?
Dr. Abaddon had more in common with her brother than she had initially imagined.
When I asked why my brother came to you, she said, I didnt mean why did he choose you. I meant, why is he seeking the services of a psychiatrist?
Dr. Abaddon smiled. Yes, I know. I was trying to sidestep the question politely. Its really not something I should be discussing. He paused. Although I must say Im puzzled that your brother would keep our discussions from you, considering that they relate so directly to your research.
My research? Katherine said, taken totally off guard. My brother talks about my research?
Recently, your brother came to me looking for a professional opinion about the psychological impact of the breakthroughs you are making in your lab.
Katherine almost choked on the tea. Really? Im . . . surprised, she managed. What is Peter thinking? He told his shrink about my work?! Their security protocol involved not discussing with anyone what Katherine was working on. Moreover, the confidentiality had been her brothers idea.
Certainly you are aware, Ms. Solomon, that your brother is deeply concerned about what will happen when your research goes public. He sees the potential for a significant philosophical shift in the world . . . and he came here to discuss the possible ramifications . . . from a psychological perspective.
I see, Katherine said, her teacup now shaking slightly.
The questions we discuss are challenging ones: What happens to the human condition if the great mysteries of life are finally revealed? What happens when those beliefs that we accept on faith . . . are suddenly categorically proven as fact? Or disproved as myth? One could argue that there exist certain questions that are best left unanswered.
Katherine could not believe what she was hearing, and yet she kept her emotions in check. I hope you dont mind, Dr. Abaddon, but Id prefer not to discuss the details of my work. I have no immediate plans to make anything public. For the time being, my discoveries will remain safely locked in my lab.
Interesting. Abaddon leaned back in his chair, lost in thought for a moment. In any event, I
asked your brother to come back today because yesterday he suffered a bit of a break. When that happens, I like to have clients
Break? Katherines heart was pounding. As in breakdown? She couldnt imagine her brother breaking down over anything.
Abaddon reached out kindly. Please, I can see Ive upset you. Im sorry. Considering these awkward circumstances, I can understand how you might feel entitled to answers.
Whether Im entitled or not, Katherine said, my brother is all I have left of my family. Nobody knows him better than I do, so if you tell me what the hell happened, maybe I can help you. We all want the same thingwhats best for Peter.
Dr. Abaddon fell silent for several long moments and then began slowly nodding as if Katherine might have a point. Finally, he spoke. For the record, Ms. Solomon, if I decide to share this information with you, I would do so only because I think your insights might help me assist your brother.
Abaddon leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees. Ms. Solomon, as long as Ive been seeing your brother, Ive sensed in him a deep struggle with feelings of guilt. Ive never pressed him on it because thats not why he comes to me. And yet yesterday, for a number of reasons, I finally asked him about it. Abaddon locked eyes with her. Your brother opened up, rather dramatically and unexpectedly. He told me things I had not expected to hear . . . including everything that happened the night your mother died.
Christmas Evealmost exactly ten years ago. She died in my arms.
He told me your mother was murdered during a robbery attempt at your home? A man broke in looking for something he believed your brother was hiding?
Abaddons eyes were appraising her. Your brother said he shot the man dead?
Abaddon stroked his chin. Do you recall what the intruder was looking for when he broke into your home?
Katherine had tried in vain for ten years to block out the memory. Yes, his demand was very specific. Unfortunately, none of us knew what he was talking about. His demand never made sense to any of us.
Well, it made sense to your brother.
What? Katherine sat up.
At least according to the story he told me yesterday, Peter knew exactly what the intruder was looking for. And yet your brother did not want to hand it over, so he pretended not to understand.
Thats absurd. Peter couldnt possibly have known what the man wanted. His demands made no sense!
Interesting. Dr. Abaddon paused and took a few notes. As I mentioned, however, Peter told me he did know. Your brother believes if he had only cooperated with the intruder, maybe your mother would be alive today. This decision is the source of all his guilt.
Katherine shook her head. Thats crazy . . .
Abaddon slumped, looking troubled. Ms. Solomon, this has been useful feedback. As I feared, your brother seems to have had a little break with reality. I must admit, I was afraid this might be the case. Thats why I asked him to come back today. These delusional episodes are not uncommon when they relate to traumatic memories.
Katherine shook her head again. Peter is far from delusional, Dr. Abaddon.
I would agree, except . . .
Except that his recounting of the attack was just the beginning . . . a tiny fraction of the long and far-fetched tale he told me.
Katherine leaned forward in her seat. What did Peter tell you?
Abaddon gave a sad smile. Ms. Solomon, let me ask you this. Has your brother ever discussed with you what he believes is hidden here in Washington, D.C. . . . or the role he believes he plays in protecting a great treasure . . . of lost ancient wisdom?
Katherines jaw fell open. What in the world are you talking about?
Dr. Abaddon heaved a long sigh. What I am about to tell you will be a bit shocking, Katherine. He paused and locked eyes with her. But it will be immeasurably helpful if you can tell me anything you may know about it. He reached for her cup. More tea?