Hot Cakes

Gary pulled up to the pancake cafe before the others and went inside. His contractor, Stu, had been a little secretive about the meeting, but insisted on meeting early, before Gary went to the EPA offices. He had also insisted that Gary bring his scintillometer. Curious.

Stu arrived with Helen, one of his techs. Gary thought her a little too studious looking for a field tech. Kinky, mousy brown hair, black-rimmed glasses and no makeup. Stu was the typical consultant/engineer — tall, lean and tending to being too chatty. They spoke amiably for a few minutes then ordered, and Gary learned that Helen was their researcher, and didn’t get in the field much. Gary knew that trying to rush Stu was counterproductive, so went along with the pleasantries.

“Nothing like hotcakes!” Stu exclaimed when breakfast arrived. Helen stifled a laugh.

Gary gave it a few minutes as they all ate and refilled their coffee cups.

“Okay, Stu, what’s this all about?”

Stu glanced at Helen and wiped his mouth, “You asked us to research the radium projects,” Gary nodded, “And Helen’s been trying to understand how the streets got radioactive.”

He was referring to the nearly forty blocks of city streets that had been identified as containing high levels of radioactivity. When the Denver Radium story broke in 1979, surveys were conducted across the metro area showing that blocks and blocks of streets in the older parts of the city had elevated radioactivity. The levels weren’t much of a problem to traffic or nearby homes, since it appeared to be in the road surface, and not in adjacent areas. In fact, they had calculated that someone would have to actually lie down where the highest value was recorded — which was in the middle of one of the busiest intersections — for over two weeks to get a dangerous dose. In that case, tires would be a greater danger than radiation. (And given the neighborhood, mugging might rank up there with tires.)

Helen jumped in, “I mapped all the streets that were hot, and tried to match them to anything that could tell us where the radioactive materials came from. As you know, there are lots of naturally-occurring radioactive materials (NORM for short) around here. The mountains have uranium, radium and thorium deposits that can be mined incidentally with other materials. Sand and gravel beds on the plains can have uranium or thorium deposits. However,” she paused, “we can type those materials to see if they match the radium processing fingerprint.”

“Go on,” Gary said.

“The techniques were pretty basic back in the 1920’s and lots of radium and uranium ended up in the waste. Later operations were more efficient and recovered more and more of the primary and incidental materials like vanadium. So, we can determine which materials were associated with the radium processing in the ’20’s. Most of the streets do appear to be contaminated with radium processing residues.”

“Meaning it’s EPA’s and my problem.” Gary concluded. Stu and Helen nodded.

“We’ll need to do more detailed surveys, and then try to figure out what to do about it. Digging up all those streets would be a massive headache.”

They walked to their cars, and Gary asked, “Why did you want to meet here?”

“Didn’t you like the hotcakes?” Stu asked, and Helen chuckled.

Gary turned to her, “Okay, what’s the deal?”

“Get your scintillometer,” she said. Gary pulled it out of his car and turned it on. Helen reached over and flipped the switch to audible, and it began to click. The readings were high, but not imminently dangerous.

“You asked me to research how the streets got hot,” Gary nodded to her, “Turns out that a contractor to the city in 1940’s used waste materials from processing sites as aggregate in asphalt for paving the streets.”

Gary walked around a bit, but the levels remained the same. “Okay, so why here?”

“It seems that this block was the yard for that contractor. And, they stored their materials for the work on this site. There are lots of residues left. The pancake place came along later and built over them.” She smiled, “HOT cakes.”


Gary kept staring at the map of the radioactive streets. There seemed to be some kind of pattern there, but he couldn’t figure it out. Using a large version on the conference room table, he tried to peer at it from all directions and at various slants. He became aware of someone in the doorway watching him.

“Pretty curious, isn’t it?” Helen asked. She crossed into the room and turned the map several times to get different perspectives.

“The contractor surfaced or resurfaced quite a few streets in the central city, but only used the radium residues in some of them.” She pulled out another map, colored to identify the different paving jobs and dates. It also showed where more recent work had removed the original paving.

Helen’s map was different from Gary’s with more color and revealed more interruption in the occurrence of the radioactivity. She had also marked all the radium processing sites and research labs that they had known about. There were several sites in basements of downtown buildings — ironically, one had been the Bureau of Mines laboratory. There were defunct processing plant sites all along the river leading south out of downtown, and several places where waste from the sites had been used as fill.

Gary couldn’t make any sense of it. Maybe it had been all random, just using the most available material at any given time. He saw that Helen had put dates on some of the paved areas, but didn’t see a pattern there.

Over the next few months, Gary stayed plenty busy getting contract extensions and managing the field studies that Stu’s teams were performing. At the back of his mind was the thought that something more was involved. He and Stu met regularly, and he often visited the field crews on site, but hadn’t seen Helen since they shared their mapping. Stu told him that she was doing some project-related research, but that she wouldn’t charge it to him unless it was helpful to the project. He shrugged off Gary’s attempt to get more information, “You know how she gets. She’ll tell us when the time is right.”

It was a few months into the project when Stu suggested another “hot cakes” breakfast, and told Gary that Helen had some information. They met the next morning and Gary didn’t wait this time, wanting to know what Helen had learned.

They ordered, and Helen took a sip of coffee, “I’ve found out that like many of the construction contracts of that time, the company hired to do the work was probably tied to organized crime. Emphasis on ‘probably’.”

“No surprise there,” Gary muttered, “Is this pretty solid? I mean, this can be documented?”

“Documented is a little strong, but it can be shown,” Stu replied for Helen, “I’m on board with Helen’s assessment. However, I think this goes beyond what you have hired us to do.” He hesitated, “With the involvement of organized crime, I’ve directed Helen to keep her findings confidential, put her papers in the confidential files, and work only on the cleanup aspects of the project.

Breakfast arrived and their conversation ended.

Helen kept working on the problem when she had time from her other work, often after hours. Finally, she was able to use the map showing the processing sites, without the dumps or fill sites, to create a source pattern. Then she took the streets results, modified by the repaving work that may have inadvertently removed some of the contamination. As she played with the sketches, it became clear that everything pointed to Cheesman Park. But there was no contamination in the park, just in the surrounding streets.

A little more research into the park revealed that it was actually a cemetery for the city starting in the 1850’s. Later the site was split into parts shared among various groups, Catholics, Chinese, Masons and Jews for separate management. In the early 1900’s, most areas were converted into the new park, except for the Catholic cemetery, Mount Calvary Cemetery. Over time, the Catholic Church moved most of the remains of those buried there and sold the land back to the city in 1950 to become Cheesman Esplanade, often called “Little Cheesman Park” by the area’s residents. In other parts of the cemetery, many, but not all of the graves were exhumed and disposed elsewhere.

Helen puzzled over the timing. What connection could the paving in the 1940’s have to do with the old cemetery? The only potential overlap would be the Catholic part of of the park, which was transferred in 1950. So, in the 1940’s, presumably, they were excavating the graves.

After much digging, Helen discovered that the company hired to exhume and relocate the bodies was connected to a long-established Catholic family of Italian descent. In fact, it was owned by the same crime family that was awarded the street repaving contract. So that was the connection.

She tried to refine the mapping to include more detail on the park. She investigated historic documents available publicly, and finally went to the church records. She was able to explain that she was working on a research project about the park, and the generosity of the church to allow the city to expand it. Apparently the church kept very meticulous records, and was relatively helpful.


In the basement of the church near downtown, she was studying the old maps showing where graves had been removed when she heard a shuffling approach and looked up to see an elderly priest watching her.

I understand that you are looking into our old records about Mount Calvary cemetery,” he stated, “May I offer some assistance? I am Father Julio.”

Sure, thank you,” Helen saw that he was very old, weathered and moved very slowly. “Sit down,” she offered.

He claimed the chair next to her. “You know,” he began, “I was involved in closing the cemetery and returning the land to the city. It was a trying time for all of us. First, the original city people that exhumed the graves were very sloppy and irreverent. It was inexcusable. Do you know about it?”

Helen nodded. The turn-of -the-century work was covered extensively in the papers of the day and sensationalized wildly. Excavations were poorly performed, bodies were left out in the open, looting of the graves occurred, and ultimately the contractor was fired, and many bodies were never recovered.

We were able to maintain our cemetery for another forty years, but the taint of that work on the adjacent land harmed the sanctity of the whole cemetery. Later, we did our duty to the dead. Why, even the Chinese were able to perform the exhumations in their part of the cemetery in a civil manner and return the remains to China.” He hesitated, then asked directly, “Are you here about the ghosts?”

No,” Helen replied, “I’ve heard the stories, but don’t believe them. They have nothing to do with my project.”

Good,” he nodded, “Even today foolish people believe they see them where the old cemetery was. We don’t need to disturb their peace anymore.”

He described how the church had identified the grave sites, and even though many of the graves were a hundred years old, they had tried to contact any remaining relatives. While most of the Catholic graves were for normal folks and even the destitute, several prominent families had erected burial vaults, and several of these had been left in place when the park took over the property.

We worked with the city to preserve those vaults as they completed the park structures,” he told her. “I’m sorry to say that some very rich families have surprising influence over both the church and government. Money can buy you that power. Even when the money is gotten though sin and corruption.”

He mused quietly for a moment, “Well, I have my duties to attend.” He stood and took her hand, “Please let me know if you have any other questions.” He held her hand a minute longer, “And I take you at your word that this is not about the ghost stories.”

Helen was intrigued by the idea that maybe some of the burial vaults had been left intact. A trip to the city files was in order.

The city files from that time proved to be in bad shape, and it took Helen a long time to work through them. Meanwhile, work on the street surveys and remediation plans had proceeded, and she had limited opportunity for the outside research. Gradually, though, she was able to form a sense of what had been left in place by the church, and then not affected by the subsequent work in the park, including the creation of the botanic gardens.


She asked Stu to set up another meeting, and once again they were having ‘hot cakes’. The place was a little crowded, and seemed to have quite a few of the contractor survey team members. Stu and Helen nodded to most when they arrived, and a couple came by to be introduced to Gary.

“How come so many of your guys are here?” Gary asked.

“Well,” Stu started, “When we initiated surveys on the property, the owner got pretty excited about it and worried that we would close him down or chase off his business.” Gary nodded at the familiar concern. “But I told him that we would frequent his place as often as we could during the work. First it would be a boost to his business, and second, if any customers became concerned, he could tell them that we ate here, and they could ask us if they had questions.”

Gary laughed, “What a great idea. We should do this at all our sites.” He turned to Helen, “Okay, what do you have for me?”

Helen pulled out her notes, “We know that in the ’40’s a contractor was hired to repave the streets, and he used radium tailings as part of his aggregate.” Gary nodded, “He apparently used the contaminated aggregate selectively.”

Gary asked, “What do we know that’s new?”

“Well, I think the pattern points to something about here,” she indicated a spot on her map just east of the Cheesman Pavilion. “This area was owned by the Catholic Church as a cemetery until 1950, then turned over to the city to be incorporated into the park. I cross checked the church and city records for that time, and found some strange circumstances.”

Both Stu and Gary looked at her expectantly, “What were those?” Stu prompted her.

“Apparently, the church removed all the graves, but at the request of some families, did not remove a handful of burial vaults. Family crypts dating back into the 1800’s.” Helen hesitated, “I’ve been suitably cautious in my research, given the involvement of crime families and the Catholic Church.” Helen gave them each a stern look, “This has nothing to do with the cleanup project, and frankly, I have no idea where this could lead, if anywhere. Maybe we should just drop the whole thing now.”

“Who’s seen this map or knows about this?” Gary asked.

“You two, and some of the staff have seen a piece of the map. I was pretty cautious about my inquiries at the church and city offices.” She thought a minute, “Really, no one but you two has any idea where this has gone. And anyway, it could all be just over-analysis, misinterpretation and wishful thinking.”

Gary looked at them, “Let me think about this. For now, keep it all confidential, and don’t do any more on it.” This time he picked up the check.


From the city records, Helen was able to discover the family names for most of the burial vaults left in place. It was easy to cross-reference the names with the old newspaper stories to identify the powerful and connected families. Most had streets, buildings or parks named after them. A few were somewhat obscure, and these intrigued her. It turned out that some were wealthy ‘Spanish’ families that she could find referenced in other materials. Interestingly, of the eight remaining tombs, four were owned by the Salome crime family, the same people that exhumed the Catholic cemetery and paved the streets with the radium waste. The origin of one eluded her. It was a relatively recent crypt, 1920’s, and there was no evidence of anyone buried there. It had been constructed and assigned to the Jules Arturio family.

That weekend, Helen visited the park and botanic gardens guided by surreptitious peeks at a small version of her map. At the far west end of the botanic garden building, there appeared to be some mechanical workings below a maintenance room, but the doors were locked. Several of the vaults should have been in that location, so maybe they were beneath the building.

“Can I help you, ma’am?”

Helen jumped about a foot, and turned to see a grizzled gray-haired maintenance man standing behind her.

“Uh, no,” she replied, “I’m just looking around.”

“Well, the looking around part is out there,” he indicated the door back into the rest of the building.

She wandered outside and found that the west end of the building was fenced off from the park beyond. Circling around into the park, she followed the fence to where it bordered the building. Thick shrubs and vines obscured the fence, but she thought she could see steps covered by the vegetation. There were too many people around for her to feel comfortable forcing her way through it, so she decided to come back later.

Back in the office, she reviewed again the list of remaining vaults. She pulled out the contact information the church had provided, and looked for Father Julio. No one was listed by that name, but she called the main number and asked for him. They rang her through, but she got the answering machine, “Hello, this is Father Julio Arturio. I am busy now, but will return your call if you leave a message. God be with you.”

Helen didn’t leave a message.

Most recent church records were online, and it didn’t take her long to get Father Julio’s history. Born in 1896 in Pueblo, he served a couple of year in WWI, studied at the Colorado School of Mines, then worked several years before becoming a priest. He spent a significant part of his early priesthood at a church in Colorado Springs; then moved to Denver in the 1930’s.

Helen dug a little deeper and finally accessed the university records. Julio Arturio was co-author on a paper with many others regarding the separation of radium and uranium from Colorado ore. It appeared that he accepted a job with the National Radium Institute in Denver after he graduated.

“Oh crap!” Helen thought, “He was involved with the Denver Radium sites from the beginning.”


The next day, Stu and Gary insisted that they both come along to Helen’s visit with Father Julio. He seemed somewhat puzzled by having to meet with so many people, but was polite when they introduced themselves. Gary explained that they were trying to understand some of the confusion around the Radium Streets, and noted that they felt there was some kind of pattern involved. Helen spread her map out on the table in front of him.

“Ahh,” he said, “I can see that you have been very thorough in your research.” He looked at the two men, “This woman is very good.”

“Can you help us understand what this means?” Stu asked, “It all seems to point to something in here,” he indicated the space east of the pavilion, next to the botanical gardens.

“Yes, I see that,” the priest replied, “Could it not be a coincidence?”

“Possibly,” Gary nodded, “But we think maybe there is more to it. You were involved in the exhumation project prior to selling the Mount Prospect Cemetery to the city for the park.” The priest nodded his assent. “It seems that work was performed by the same company that paved the streets with radium wastes. Coincidence?”

The priest was silent, staring down at his hands. They waited for him to speak.

He took a deep breath, then looked at each of them, “Some of what I can tell you is related to what I know from the confessional, and must not be repeated.” He stared at each of them and one by one they nodded. He went on, “In my youth, I joined the army to fight and protect my country. It was a shattering experience,” His hands shook, and he quickly folded them in his lap, “I learned that there is no excuse for war, it is purely evil.”

“When I returned, I went to college, then took a job doing research for the radium processing company, and saw the possibilities for it to save lives and improve the human condition. That goal was sorely needed in those times,” he paused, “and even now.”

“I felt called to work for God to further those goals. As a priest, I heard the confession of a visitor to our church who shared my goals and saw technology as a way to further them. He had already invented wonderful things and had much more to give to humanity. I encouraged him and we became correspondents when he returned to New York.”

“Over time, he became more despondent in his efforts to make things better; unbelievably there were those who actively worked to undercut his successes, and even take credit for them. He was always very spiritual, almost a mystic within his catholic faith.” Father Julio went within himself, and remained silent.

After a few minutes, he seemed to realize where he was. “Excuse me, I sometimes get lost in the past.”

“As my friend aged, he became more concerned about the misuse of technology. The new discoveries in the radiation field disturbed him gravely. In addition, he was pestered by the government to turn over some of his work that could be misused as weaponry. They wanted him to build a “death ray,” can you believe it? Take his work that could have provided the free energy of the earth’s electromagnetic field to every person on earth, and turn it into the ultimate destructive device.” The old man shook his head.

Stu glanced at Helen and Gary, then asked, “Tesla — your friend was Tesla?”

The old man nodded, “Of course, Nikola. He was very angry, very concerned that his work would be used for evil, not good.”

Gary looked puzzled, and Helen was bemused. “We’re talking about Nikola Tesla … the inventor?”

“He had come back to visit Colorado Springs, where he previously had a lab and performed some amazing experiments.” Father Julio went on, “I heard his confession and we later talked and became friends.” He shook his head, “He did not trust the government to use his ideas wisely. He became paranoid and finally boxed his most wonderful and amazing papers and drawings up and sent them to me for safe-keeping.”

“You have Tesla’s missing papers?” Helen looked skeptical.

Father Julio turned to face her, “He wanted them to be preserved and protected until men could be trusted to use them properly. I did not keep them but had them hidden where no one would find them for many years.” He smiled a little, “I had not expected someone like you to figure it out so soon. I left instructions in my will for another father to keep them safe until mankind was ready.”

Father Julio stood up, “You must excuse me, but an old man must take certain breaks occasionally. I’ll be back shortly.”

When he was gone, Stu asked, “Okay, I’m very confused. Who’s this Tesla dude and what’s the big deal”

Helen and Stu explained that Tesla was an inventor in the late 1800’s who had a laboratory in Colorado Springs in the 1890’s. Tesla actually invented alternating current, which overshadowed Edison’s direct current systems — winning his eternal enmity. Tesla invented the first radio, but his patent was stolen by Marconi. He invented radio-controlled motors, and all kinds of electric devices, such as the Tesla coil which thrills sci-fi movie-goers to this day. He believed that energy could be transmitted through the earth and if you had the proper receiver you just had to tap in to the earth’s energy. This would replace all power plants and transmission systems and make free energy available to everyone.

“So, this dude confides in a priest and eventually gave him all his scientific papers and designs?” Stu asked. “So, what has Father Julio done with them?”

“Good question for when he returns.” Gary noted.

They waited a bit, then Helen went up to the front office to ask where he may have gone.

“Oh, I didn’t realize you were still here. Father Julio told me he wasn’t feeling well and went home.” The receptionist replied.

They looked at each other. “He’s gone to move the files,” Stu said.

Helen looked at the two of them, “We’ve got to stop him.”


The park was empty except for joggers and a Tai Chi class. The area behind the botanic gardens was clear, so they parked at the pavilion and circled around to the back.

“He’ll try to get in the outside door. He can do that without being seen.” Helen explained.

They approached the end of the gardens and saw the shrubs and vines that obscured the fence had been disturbed. A set of steps were clearly visible.

“He’s been here,” she said.

They followed the steps down, crunching through the dead leaves that had been recently disturbed. At the bottom, a steel door was ajar. It squealed as Stu pulled it open, and he smiled sheepishly and shrugged, “He may have heard that.”

A dark concrete corridor led away, and Stu noted the doors cut into the concrete on each side. As the neared one, Helen noted the nameplate on the door, “These are the crypts they left in place. I know the names.”

I wish we’d brought a flashlight,” Gary muttered.

Up ahead on the left, a dim light shone out one of the doors. They approached quietly, and peered in. A small lantern sat on a ledge above an open casket. They entered the room. The air was stale, and the casket was full of a dry, grainy soil. Gary pushed some aside to reveal a box of papers beneath. “This must be them,” he said.

Suddenly, the door slammed with a loud clang. Stu rushed over to it in time to hear a lock turn. “Forgive me. May God have mercy on your souls,” he heard faintly though the steel door. Banging brought no response.

“Sonovabitch!” he cried, “That bastard locked us in.”

“Based on the dust and condition of the door and the floors, I don’t think anyone comes down here much.” Helen stated, “I think we’re in trouble.”

No one disagreed.

Stu and Gary had tried unsuccessfully to force the door, and each of them took turns trying to pick the lock.

“This is really easy in the movies and on TV,” Helen noted.

“I can hotwire a car,” Gary offered, and they all laughed.

The lantern was battery-powered, so they decided to preserve it by turning it off, but the complete darkness was overwhelming. They opted for alternating it on and off at 15 minute intervals.

Helen began to look over some of the papers from one of the boxes. “What’s with all the dirt?” she asked no one in particular.

“Weight?” Gary offered.

“I would think the papers alone would be heavy enough,” she mused. She examined a handful of it more closely. “I wonder, …”

“What is it?” Stu asked.

“I wonder if this could be the same soil they used in the streets.”

“Gary looked up, “You mean this stuff is radioactive?” He brushed his hands together to remove the dust.

“Maybe this was an attempt to keep people from using the papers, if they were ever discovered,” she said. “Kind of a fail-safe measure. Don’t destroy them, but make them difficult to use.”

“How radioactive is this stuff?” Gary asked.

“Well, the stuff in the streets is not that hot, but dangerous with long term contact.”

“What is long term?”

“Maybe a few weeks could cause cancer; longer could be more serious.”

Gary pantomimed relief, “Great, no worries. We’ll be out by then.”

Helen, shook her head, “Don’t forget the radon. The radium decays into radon in the air. High concentrations can also cause cancer, and there’s no dilution down here. The longer we’re here, the higher the concentrations.”

Stu laughed darkly, “You both worry too much. The air in here will only last a day or two, so we’ll be long dead from asphyxiation before we get cancer, regardless of what the dirt is.”

They sat quietly in the dark and the silence for a long while. Finally Stu asked Helen, “What do you know about Tesla’s papers. Why are they important?”

She chuckled, “His missing papers were supposed to have a designs for the wireless transmission of energy through the earth, and death/disintegrator beam weapons. Even if that was too speculative, they would have contained his unpatented research papers. Who knows what incredible things we could have found. It was reported that government agents spent years trying to get his files, and in the days before WWII, they actually tried to steal some of his papers. He shipped some to a museum in Europe somewhere, but the really interesting or scary stuff wasn’t included.”

“Do you hear something?” Stu asked. He flicked on the lantern and pressed his ear against the door. Suddenly, he began to bang on the door. “Quickly,” he shouted at them, “Make noise, as loud as you can.”

They all banged and shouted, and finally, there was an answering knock. They heard scratching and banging on the lock and stepped back from the door. It burst open, and bright lights flashed into the room. Fresh air poured in.

“Are you okay?” someone asked.

“Yes, we’re fine,” Stu answered.

“Stay where you are for a minute,” they were instructed, and there was intense activity outside in the hall. “Okay, now come out one at a time, the lady first.”

Helen pushed up to the doorway and was met by someone in a tyvek suit with a full-face respirator. “Step over here, stay on the plastic.” Two others used brushes and vacuums all over her body, with special attention to her hands, face and hair. “Step over here and remove your outer clothes.” They directed her to a small place shielded by plastic sheeting.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“Decontamination.” Helen noted the scintillometers for the first time. They were scanning her and using pancake probes, wiping off any spots with contamination. She was given clean coveralls and paper slippers and led to the end of the hall. The maintenance man grinned at her and offered her a chair.

Shortly, the others joined her. The techs who had performed the decontamination reported to the maintenance man when they were done. “They’re all clean, and the room is mostly contained. We’ve closed the casket and deconned the outside. It’s ready to move.”

“Okay,” the maintenance man replied, then turned to Helen, Stu and Gary, “Let’s us go upstairs and have a chat.”

They hit the restrooms on the way to the conference room. The air conditioning and fresh air was a relief, and they all eagerly drank water, then grabbed a soda.

“Who are you and how did you find us?” Gary asked the maintenance man.

As if on cue, a tall man in a dark suit came into the room. “My name is Abelson, and I work for the FBI.” He flashed a badge that Gary examined closely. “Charles,” he indicated the maintenance man, “Has worked for us for many years.” Charles grinned at them.

“I want you each to understand that what you have learned and what you have seen falls under the government secrets act. If you reveal any of this, you will be prosecuted.” He paused for effect, “Do you understand? If you agree, I may be able to enlighten you some.”

Helen looked at Stu, who looked at Gary. Returning their looks, Gary nodded. Stu nodded to Helen. “We’re all agreed,” Gary said.

“I understand that you have made a connection between Father Julio and the burial vault. Then to Tesla, and concluded that Tesla’s missing papers were stored in that burial vault. That may or not be true.”

Stu interrupted, “Then why have a man watching the place?”

Abelson ignored him.

“How did you find us?” Helen asked, “Where is Father Julio?”

“I suspect you know that he was the one that shut you in the tomb.” Abelson said, “He apparently exerted himself too much and collapsed as he was leaving the vaults. A jogger saw him and got help. Charles was notified and saw that the outer door had been breached.”

“How did you know about the contamination?”

“When Charles reported that Father Julio was involved, we sent a team in to check a variety of possibilities. He has been under suspicion for quite a while, but we had no confirmed proof until Helen made the connections.” He nodded to her, “Good job. We thought it was possible that he would blow up the vault. Luckily, he just tried to make it untouchable.”

Helen shuddered. “Father Julio, is he okay?”

“Sorry to say, he didn’t make it.”

Gary broke in, “What happens now?”

Abelson looked them over sternly, “We drop you off at your homes, you go back to doing your jobs, and you forget about all of this.” He paused, “None of this ever happened. You don’t want to consider the option.”

As they walked out of the room, Abelson pulled Helen aside, “I like your work. Give me a call in a couple of weeks; the agency could use someone like you.” The card he gave her had another name.

As she climbed into the van, a hearse pulled out from the back of the building. Helen could see the casket in the back as it drove away