After Laura

Kendall peered into the interrogation room through the wall of one-way glass. He let out a relieved breath. They'd done as he asked. The man was clean shaven. He could observe him for his own peace of mind and be sure before he made a fool of himself.

Five minutes later, he'd seen enough; he wiped his sweaty hands on his trousers and straightened his tie, picked up his slim stack of file folders, and pushed through the door.

"Agent Jack Bristow." The man looked up, a flicker in his eye at the formal address. Kendall doubted many people called him agent in here. "Nice to meet you. I'm Agent Kendall."

"You don't look like the other ones. You're not CIA, are you?"

"On paper? I'm with the FBI. Unofficially? Well… I dabble."

"In what?"

"Ancient history."

"Well, then what the hell do you want from me?"

Kendall took the seat across the metal table from Jack.

"You ever hear of Milo Rambaldi?" he asked, nonchalant.

Kendall could tell Jack was a master at controlling how his emotions showed on his face; he would have to be to survive in this business. But the micro-expressions, the tiny movements around his eyes, still managed to make it clear that that had been the last thing Jack had expected Kendall to say. Jack was silent just a moment too long for Kendall to believe he didn't recognize the name.

"Excuse me?"

"That's what I want from you. Rambaldi. Milo Giacomo Rambaldi—"

"Is that name supposed to mean something to me?" Jack interrupted.

"Oh yes. I think it should. I think it does. I think playing dumb about this does nothing to help your situation. I think a man in your position would take any help he could get. Your daughter is out there, after all. She just lost her mother. Don't you think she should have her daddy around to help her through that?"

Mentioning the girl was either the worst possible tactic or the best one. Either way, whatever small measure of respect Kendall garnered with his initial politeness went out the nonexistent window.

"Don't you dare bring my daughter into this, or question my intentions as a parent. I didn't exactly ask to be put in prison, you son of a bitch."

"No, but you were the one who married a Russian spy. Nothing tipped you off about that, huh? Just all around bad luck."

Oh, if looks could kill, Kendall would be dead and buried. "Just get to the goddamned point, Agent."

"OK. So let's pretend for a minute you don't know anything about Milo Rambaldi. Here's a crash course— Milo Rambaldi was a fifteenth century artist, engineer, and inventor. Chief architect to the Pope, even. Real Renaissance man, Rambaldi was. A lot of people, they think he was a prophet. His designs were certainly ahead of their time. So much so that people back then thought he was a heretic and had him executed. Supposedly."


"Supposedly. After he died, his manuscripts and inventions were scattered around the globe. Some of it was intentional, that much is obvious. His followers were trying to protect his discoveries after the Pope ordered that they be destroyed. No one really knows what Rambaldi was up to because everything's strewn all over the place and no one's ever had enough of it in one place to get a clear picture of it.

"One thing everybody who knows anything about Rambaldi knows for sure, though, is the guy was fascinated, fascinated, with immortality. You could write dissertations about how much he talked about it. A lot of people think a genius like that, well, he's got to have figured something out. He did with everything else. He's got plans for things that are only now possible to build. Hell, he's got plans for things we still can't build. His technology was that advanced. Why couldn't he figure out the secret to immortality, too?"

"And what, exactly, does all this have to do with me?"

"I have reason to believe he's still alive and I have reason to believe you know him."

"What on earth would give you that idea?"

Kendall leaned back in his chair with his fingers linked behind his head. "When I was a kid, my father worked for the Department of Special Research. Interesting stuff, couldn't really talk about much of it, but I picked up some things here and there. Rambaldi was one of those things. I heard the name as a kid and it stuck.

"My mom and dad, they were famous for their summer barbecues. One barbecue when I was about fourteen, I met one of my dad's coworkers, a man by the name of Alan Charles. Well, Rambaldi came up and everything about the man was just so damned interesting I wouldn't shut up. I must have talked the poor guy's ear off, but he was pretty patient with me. That conversation ended up inspiring me to follow in my dad's footsteps."

Kendall pulled an old photograph from one of the files in front him. "Anyway, my dad's coworker, he should be pushing seventy by now, but…" He slid the photo across the table to Jack. "I'll be damned if you're not the spitting image of him."

"How am I supposed to respond to that? You think I'm actually the man your father used to work with? You're accusing me of what, exactly—being some superhuman… thing who can't age? How would that even be possible?"

"Rambaldi left a trail of impossibilities wherever he went, not the least of which are people who've lived much longer than they should. The clockmaker, Giovanni Donato—the story is that he's a direct descendant of Rambaldi's only collaborator, but there's no real evidence he's not the man himself. The collector, Gino Segreto—he was middle aged when he went missing, but there have been sightings for nearly a hundred years, well past any normal lifespan. There's even an old man in an Italian prison who claims to have been Rambaldi's cell mate. So, yes, I think you're Alan Charles. I think you're one of them. And I think you should listen to me, because like it or not, I'm your ticket out of this place."

"You think you can get them to let me go?"

"I have the order guaranteeing your release right here." Kendall slid the thickest sheaf of papers from his files over to Jack. "Take your time, read it through."

After a few moments, Jack looked up from the document and met his gaze. "This looks legitimate." Kendall held up his hands in innocent confirmation. Jack clenched his jaw.

"I can give you Segreto, or something just as good," he said, "but you have to promise to keep up your end of the bargain."