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Authors: Roland Smith

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BOOK: Shatterproof
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Atticus was not thinking about keeping safe. He was standing in the security line thinking about being an international diamond thief.

Hanging out with Dan is so cool!

To pull the heist off, he would have to find the switch. All buildings had one.
Well, not mud-and-dung huts, but if there’s electricity, there’s a switch
, Atticus reasoned. Without power there were no lights, and more importantly no surveillance cameras, pressure plates, or alarms. He hoped Dan and Amy had flashlights in their packs, or a flashlight app on their smartphones.

He emptied his pockets and put his pack on the conveyor belt. As he walked through the metal detector, he asked the guard if he could talk to the person in charge of security.

“That would be Herr Rommel,” the guard answered in German. “The man in the black suit.” He pointed at the circular security counter in the center of the ornate lobby.

Atticus nodded. He recognized Rommel from a photo he’d seen on the Pergamon web page. He gathered his things, and his courage, and walked over to the security counter. Rommel was impeccably groomed, from his styled white hair to his perfectly manicured fingernails, creased slacks, and polished black shoes. He was going through a stack of papers as Atticus approached.


Guten Abend
, Herr Rommel,” Atticus said in nearly flawless German.

Rommel looked up from his papers with piercing gray eyes. “
Guten Abend
. How may I help you?”

“My name is Atticus Rosenbloom, and I’d like a behind-the-scenes tour of the museum.”

Rommel gave a short laugh. “I am not a tour guide. I am the director of security.”

Atticus smiled. “Yes, I know. And that’s why I decided to ask you. I’m doing a school assignment on museum security. In actuality, I’m not interested in how artwork and national treasures are displayed. I want to know how they are protected.”

“And what school do you go to?”

“Harvard,” Atticus lied. Technically, he’d only taken a few extension classes there, but Rommel didn’t need to know that.

Rommel put the papers down and his gray eyes narrowed. “Really?”

“Yes.” Atticus flashed his student identification card.

Rommel looked at it. “And you are how old?”

“Eleven. My father is Dr. Mark Rosenbloom, the archaeologist. I believe that you have some of his artifacts in your collection.” Atticus didn’t know if this was true or not, but it wouldn’t surprise him. His father’s discoveries were displayed in museums all over the world.

“I don’t know your father’s name, or his artifacts,” Rommel said. “I am not a curator. I am only interested in security.” He gave Atticus a thorough once-over. “You are a child prodigy?”

“I guess.” Atticus didn’t like the term. It made him sound like some kind of sideshow freak. Atticus glanced at his watch. Time was running out. Amy would be walking in soon and he’d learned absolutely nothing about the Pergamon’s security system. “What about the tour?”

Rommel shook his head. “I am afraid I cannot accommodate you. I do not give tours, and we will be closing soon.”

“That’s disappointing,” Atticus said with a crushed look. “Frau Bundeskanzlerin told me that you gave her a fabulous tour last week.”

A look of astonishment crossed Rommel’s face. “Are you referring to Chancellor Merkel?”

“Yes. She’s an old family friend. I’m staying at her residence . . . well, until tomorrow, anyway. I fly back to the States in the morning. Anyway, I told her about my paper and she said that she was here last week and that you had been very kind and —”

“I only spoke to Chancellor Merkel for a moment,” Rommel interrupted, smiling with delight. “I’m surprised she remembered me.”

Atticus would not have known Chancellor Merkel if she walked up and kissed him. He’d only read about her visit to the Pergamon on the Internet twenty minutes earlier in the front seat of the car.

“You must have made a very positive impression,” Atticus said, turning to leave. “I’ll say hello to her for you.”

“Wait, wait!” Rommel hurried out from the security station.

Gotcha!
Atticus thought. It was all he could do not to pump his fist. He wiped the glee off his face, turned around, and nearly fainted. The top sheet of the papers Rommel was holding was clearly visible. It was an Interpol wanted poster.

On it was a photograph of Dan and Amy.

Rommel smiled. “Don’t look so disappointed. I will give you a tour. A friend of Chancellor Merkel’s is a friend of mine.”

“Thank you,” Atticus managed, though his mouth had gone as dry as parchment.

“Let me drop these off at the security line and we will begin.”

As Rommel walked over to the line, Atticus hit Amy’s speed-dial number with a trembling finger. She answered on the first ring.

“Where are you?” Atticus asked.

“I just got inside. I’m standing near the entrance. Who’s the guy you were talking to?”

“Mr. Rommel. Head of security. You see those papers he just handed to that guard?” Atticus replied.

“Yeah.”

“The top one is a wanted poster for you and Dan!”

Dan had not gotten very far into the Pergamon before he hit a one-hundred-by-forty-seven-foot wall: the Ishtar Gate. He was not much of a museum guy, and the gate had nothing to do with the Jubilee Diamond, but it was impressive enough to stop him in his tracks. He quickly glanced at the information tag.

The Ishtar Gate, he read, was one of the eight gates of Babylon, built around 600
B.C.
by King Nebuchadnezzar and dedicated to the goddess Ishtar. It was discovered by a German archaeologist named Robert Koldewey in 1899, moved to Berlin piece by blue-tiled piece, and reconstructed inside the Pergamon. The bright tiles were lined with alternating rows of golden aurochs, which Dan learned were a type of extinct wild oxen, and dragons. But what really caught his attention was the compass etched beneath one of the aurochs. Dan leaned over the velvet rope for a closer look.

His breath caught in his throat.
This can’t be a coincidence!

It was the same symbol they had found on the de Virga map.

Atticus was in the Pergamon’s state-of-the-art security room, staring nervously at a bank of high-definition video monitors.

“A single door serves as both the entrance and the exit to the Golden Jubilee room. Everyone is counted going in and out,” Rommel explained, pointing to the screen.

He pointed to another monitor, which showed the huge diamond from three different angles. Two grim-faced armed guards sandwiched the case. “The case is bulletproof,” he said. “And bombproof, and fireproof, as is the room in which the Jubilee is kept. That was just one of the many conditions the king of Thailand had before loaning the jewel to the Pergamon. The museum has no surveillance dead areas.”

The video array was impressive, but Atticus knew that Rommel was not being completely truthful. It was illegal to put video cameras inside restrooms.

“We are using the same technology as your Las Vegas casinos,” Rommel continued with pride. “We even have facial recognition software.”

Uh-oh.

“How’s that work?” Atticus asked innocently.

“Step over here and I will demonstrate.”

Rommel sat Atticus down at a computer terminal behind the monitors, then leaned over him to type in a string of numbers. Atticus followed his fingers intently, trying to memorize the access code.

“Here we go.” Rommel clicked an icon.

Several video feeds from the Golden Jubilee room came onto the monitor. Atticus scanned the frames and tried not to scream when he saw Dan standing in line to get into the room.

Rommel moved the arrow of the cursor toward Dan’s head.

“Can I do it?” Atticus asked, almost grabbing the cursor out of Rommel’s hand.

“Certainly. Just click on someone in line.”

Atticus moved the cursor as far away from Dan as he could get. He clicked on a woman at the end of the line, with two children who looked bored out of their minds.

“It is unlikely she is going to come up in our database,” Rommel said. “In fact, it is unlikely any of the patrons in line, or in the room, will result in a hit. We only use the software when we identify someone acting suspicious. And we usually identify them while they are going through security.”

“What if they wear a disguise?” Atticus asked.

Rommel gave a thin smile. “You can lose weight, gain weight, change your hairstyle, hair color, eye color, but you cannot change your bone structure. The software sees through all of these disguises.”

Atticus thought about texting Amy and telling her not to act suspicious but then squirmed. If someone told him not to act suspicious, he’d immediately look twice as guilty as before.

“So if you’re wanted by the police, your face is in the software database?” Atticus asked.

“Not just
wanted
.” Rommel took over the cursor. Atticus held his breath, then let it out when Rommel switched to the video feed near the Ishtar Gate. He zoomed in on a middle-aged man. “Notice how he is not paying attention to the wall like the other patrons.”

Atticus nodded. The man was looking everywhere but at the art.

“He was acting the same way as he went through the security line,” Rommel continued. “Very suspicious. Go ahead and click on him.”

Atticus clicked the mouse. A symbol appeared in the upper right-hand corner of the screen followed by the man’s name.

BOOK: Shatterproof
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