“Shit!” Lorelei said, dropping the pizza boxes. The agents were on their feet before the boxes hit the floor. No one was drawing weapons, but Diaz again gave a clumsy tell when her right hand flinched ever-so-slightly toward her left shoulder.
David positioned himself between them with his hands raised in reassurance. “Easy… everybody chill. Roger, Rebecca, I invited Lorelei here. We’re gonna have a little slumber party; braid each other’s hair, paint our toenails and tell some stories.” With a sideways glance at LeMoyne, he added, “I’m particularly looking forward to the stories, aren’t you?”
“David,” offered LeMoyne, “your… friend… is a total ‘X’ factor. For all we know, she could be sided with whomever’s looking for you.”
David nodded. “Okay, let’s start with that.”
He picked up one of the pizza boxes at Lorelei’s feet, retrieved his drink and sat on the sofa.
“You seem very confident that someone is indeed ‘looking for me’. That alone tells me there’s information you’re not sharing. All I know about are some letters and a couple of break-ins. Lorelei?”
Lorelei looked at David, who raised his eyebrows and pointed to a chair. She complied, sitting with a glare and folded arms.
“So let’s start with the letters,” David continued. “No threats of any kind, just some… bizarre assertions. Apparently someone believes those assertions. Who?”
LeMoyne sat, sighing. “We don’t know for certain–”
“Yes, you do,” shot Lorelei. Their eyes met, and her nostrils were flared. She meant business. “The Glastonbury dig.”
David looked back at LeMoyne. “The Glastonbury? Holy Grail, Da Vinci Code and all that?”
The A.D. stiffened his upper lip. “There was an expedition–”
“A Federally-funded expedition,” inserted Lorelei.
“In cooperation with the British Government,” LeMoyne continued, ignoring her. ” Led by a Professor James Koenig, who has since fallen into considerable discredit. This was a few years back. Da Vinci Code, and the slew of pseudo-scholarly books and films that followed in its wake, had conspiracy buffs in such a froth that the UK feared for the whole region being trampled and overturned. They launched a huge archaeological survey, in hopes of putting the whole myth to bed at last.”
David smirked, munching on a slice of pizza. “How is this not public knowledge? News outlets, Smithsonian, National Geographic; they should have been all over it.”
“Much of British culture and folklore is bound up in that connection between the so-called ‘Grail’ and the ancient Arthurian legends. King Arthur is such a powerful mythical figure that to this day, the Royals trace their questionable genealogies through him. The level of pressure that would have been involved, to confirm or finally refute centuries of British exceptionalism… no one could have gotten any work done.”
Amused, David grinned and spoke with his mouth full. “So. Any grails found? Holy or otherwise? Or at least some fossilized coconut halves?” Rebecca snickered at the reference, but caught herself quickly.
LeMoyne was hesitant. “There were some human remains found…”
“Human remains that were buried with care,” prodded Lorelei, “and found together with objects that indicated reverence. And an inscription on the vessel in Aramaic.”
“All right,” barked LeMoyne. “The inscription identified that remains as those of ‘Ya’akov bar Yosef’. Or, as we might say, ‘James, son of Joseph’.”
“I’ve heard of this,” said David. “It was a big deal about ten years ago. It wasn’t found in Britain, and it was proven a fraud.”
LeMoyne looked painfully at Agent Diaz. “David, that find was proven fraudulent. This find was in Glastonbury. And it still contained remains, where the other did not.”
“Listen,” David input, rubbing his eyes, “I haven’t been to temple in a little over twenty years, but even I know this could have been any old Jim-son-of-Joe. Those were two of the most common names in first-century Judea.”
Rebecca nodded. “Just the same,” she continued hesitantly, “they were first century, and they were Judean.”
LeMoyne finally untied his tongue. “Rigorous tests indicated a male, late forties to early fifties, ethnically Hebrew, and having lived in the first century B.C.E.. And so Koenig made the leap that these were indeed the biblical James.”
“And subsequently discredited?” David asked.
“Ha- ! Ohhhh, no, not yet he wasn’t,” sneered Lorelei. “First, these guys’ masters had a last little job for him. Map all remaining viable DNA markers, for their database.”
At last it began to dawn on him. “Roger,” he said wearily, “was it Koenig writing those letters? And has my DNA, for whatever fool reason, been compared to a sample from those remains?”
LeMoyne answered slowly and apologetically. “Yes… and yes. There was a match considered too close to be attributable to chance.”
“David,” Lorelei said gently, “the biblical Joseph was claimed to be from the line that produced King David, and later King Solomon. You know that for some decades now, factions have been trying to install judges, ambassadors, cabinet secretaries and elected officials based on some pretty dubious shit. Are you ready to learn how far back those efforts date, and how far they hope to go?”
“Enough!” David shouted. He stood and paced the room, fingers entwined in his hair as if to pull it all out. Anger and disbelief were turning inward, into nausea, and the pizza probably was not helping.
Suddenly he swiveled and addressed the three, accusingly. “Okay, this is what happens now. You guys are gonna check-and-balance each other from now on. Roger, Rebecca, I don’t go anywhere with either of you, not to take a piss, without Lorelei along. I’m not answering any questions, and I’m not gonna bother asking, unless she’s around to provide a bullshit filter.”
Diaz rolled her eyes and huffed; LeMoyne just looked defeated. But no one was protesting. David picked up his drink and stood at the window, staring out.
Joking, but feeling far from funny, he said, “The King of America has so decreed.”
He heard an odd tinkling sound as he raised the glass to his lips, then saw that the glass was shattered, and his hand was bleeding. Confused, he looked round, and saw that his upper arm was soaked through with blood.
Then the pain hit.
And as David was falling backwards, the window exploded into fragments from a hail of gunfire.