<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <B>The Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall</B><BR> It was the Rembrandt that solved the mystery once and <BR> for all. Afterward, in the quaint shops where they did their <BR> marketing and the dark little seaside pubs where they did their <BR> drinking, they would chide themselves for having missed the telltale<BR> signs, and they would share a good natured laugh at some of <BR> their more outlandish theories about the true nature of his work. <BR> Because in their wildest dreams there was not one among them <BR> who ever considered the possibility that the taciturn man from <BR> the far end of Gunwalloe Cove was an art restorer, and a world<BR> famous art restorer at that.<BR> He was not the first outsider to wander down to Cornwall with <BR> a secret to keep, yet few had guarded theirs more jealously, or with <BR> more style and intrigue. A case in point was the peculiar manner <BR> in which he had secured lodgings for himself and his beautiful but <BR> much younger wife. Having chosen the picturesque cottage at the <BR> edge of the cliffs—by all accounts, sight unseen—he had paid <BR> the entire twelve-month lease in advance, with all the paperwork <BR> handled discreetly by an obscure lawyer in Hamburg. He settled <BR> into the cottage a fortnight later as if he were conducting a raid <BR> on a distant enemy outpost. Those who met him during his first <BR> forays into the village were struck by his notable lack of candor. <BR> He seemed to have no name—at least not one he was willing to <BR> share—and no country of origin that any of them could place. <BR> Duncan Reynolds, thirty years retired from the railroad and <BR> regarded as the worldliest of Gunwalloe’s residents, described him as <BR> “a cipher of a man” while other reviews ranged from “standoffish” <BR> to “unbearably rude.” Even so, all agreed that, for better or worse, <BR> the little west Cornish village of Gunwalloe had become a far more <BR> interesting place.<BR> With time, they were able to establish that his name was <BR> Giovanni Rossi and that, like his beautiful wife, he was of Italian<BR> descent. Which made it all the more curious when they began <BR> to notice government-issue cars filled with government-issue men <BR> prowling the streets of the village late at night. And then there <BR> were the two blokes who sometimes fished the cove. Opinion was <BR> universal that they were the worst fishermen anyone had ever seen. <BR> In fact, most assumed they were not fishermen at all. Naturally, as <BR> is wont to happen in a small village like Gunwalloe, there began <BR> an intense debate about the true identity of the newcomer and the <BR> nature of his work—a debate that was finally resolved by Portrait <BR> of a Young Woman, oil on canvas, 104 by 86 centimeters, by <BR> Rembrandt van Rijn.<BR> Precisely when it arrived would never be clear. They <BR> assumed it was sometime in mid-January because that was when <BR> they noticed a dramatic change in his daily routine. One day he <BR> was marching along the rugged cliff tops of the Lizard Peninsula<BR> as though wrestling with a guilty conscience; the next he <BR> was standing before an easel in his living room, a paintbrush <BR> in one hand, a palette in the other, and opera music blasting so <BR> loudly you could hear the wailing clear across Mount’s Bay in <BR> Marazion . Given the proximity of his cottage to the Coastal <BR> Path, it was possible—if one paused in just the right spot, mind <BR> you, and craned one’s neck at just the right angle—to see him in <BR> his studio. At first, they assumed he was working on a painting <BR> of his own. But as the weeks ground slowly past, it became clear <BR> he was involved in the craft known as conservation or, more <BR> commonly, as restoration.<BR> “Hell’s that mean?” Malcolm Braithwaite, a retired lobster man <BR> who smelled perpetually of the sea, asked one evening at the Lamb <BR> and Flag pub.<BR> “It means he’s fixing the bloody thing,” said Duncan Reynolds. <BR> “A painting is like a living, breathing thing. When it gets old, it <BR> flakes and sags—just like you, Malcolm.”<BR> “I hear it’s a young girl.”<BR> “Pretty,” said Duncan, nodding his head. “Cheeks like apples. <BR> She looks positively edible.”<BR> “Do we know the artist?”<BR> “Still working on that.”<BR> And work on it they did. They consulted many books, searched <BR> many sites on the Internet, and sought out people who knew more <BR> about art than they did—a category that included most of the<BR> population of West Cornwall. Finally, in early April, Dottie Cox from <BR> the village store screwed up the nerve to simply ask the beautiful <BR> young Italian woman about the painting when she came into town <BR> to do her marketing. The woman evaded the question with an <BR> ambiguous smile. Then, with her straw bag slung over her shoulder, <BR> she sauntered back down to the cove, her riotous dark hair tossed <BR> by the springtime wind. Within minutes of her arrival, the wailing <BR> of the opera ceased and the window shades of the cottage fell like <BR> eyelids.<BR> They remained tightly closed for the next week, at which <BR> point the restorer and his beautiful wife disappeared without <BR> warning. For several days, the residents of Gunwalloe feared <BR> they might not be planning to return, and a few actually berated<BR> themselves for having snooped and pried into the couple’s <BR> private affairs. Then, while leafing through the Times one <BR> morning at the village store, Dottie Cox noticed a story from <BR> Washington , D.C., about the unveiling of a long-lost portrait <BR> by Rembrandt— a portrait that looked precisely like the one that <BR> had been in the cottage at the far end of the cove. And thus the <BR> mystery was solved.<BR> Coincidentally, that same edition of the Times contained a <BR> front-page article about a series of mysterious explosions at four <BR> secret Iranian nuclear facilities. No one in Gunwalloe imagined <BR> there might be any connection. At least not yet.<BR> The restorer was a changed man when he came back from America; <BR> they could see that. Though he remained guarded in his personal <BR> encounters—and he was still not the sort you would want to <BR> surprise in the dark—it was obvious a great burden had been lifted <BR> from his shoulders. They saw a smile on his angular face every <BR> now and again, and the light emitted by his unnaturally green eyes <BR> seemed a shade less defensive. Even his long daily walks had a <BR> different quality. Where once he had pounded along the footpaths <BR> like a man possessed, he now seemed to float atop the mist-covered <BR> cliffs like an Arthurian spirit who had come home after a long time <BR> in a distant land.<BR> “Looks to me as if he’s been released from a sacred vow,” <BR> <p> observed Vera Hobbs, owner of the village bakeshop. But when <BR> asked to venture a guess as to what that vow might have been, or <BR> to whom he had sworn it, she refused. Like everyone else in town, <BR> she had made a fool of herself trying to divine his occupation. <BR> “Besides,” she advised, “it’s better to leave him in peace. Otherwise, <BR> the next time he and his pretty wife leave the Lizard, it might be <BR> for good.”<BR> Indeed, as that glorious summer slowly faded, the restorer’s <BR> future plans became the primary preoccupation of the entire village. <BR> With the lease on the cottage running out in September, and with <BR> no tangible evidence he was planning to renew it, they embarked on <BR> a covert effort to persuade him to stay. What the restorer needed, <BR> they decided, was something to keep him tethered to the Cornish <BR> coast—a job that utilized his unique set of skills and gave him <BR> something to do other than walk the cliffs. Exactly what that job <BR> might entail, and who would give it to him, they had no idea, but <BR> they entrusted to themselves the delicate task of trying to find it.<BR> After much deliberation, it was Dottie Cox who finally hit upon <BR> the idea of the First Annual Gunwalloe Festival of Fine Arts, with <BR> the famous art restorer Giovanni Rossi serving as honorary chairman.<BR> She made the suggestion to the restorer’s wife the following <BR> morning when she popped into the village store at her usual time. <BR> The woman actually laughed for several minutes. The offer was <BR> flattering, she said after regaining her composure, but she didn’t <BR> think it was the sort of thing Signor Rossi would agree to. His <BR> official rejection came soon after, and the Gunwalloe Festival of <BR> Fine Arts quietly withered on the vine. It was no matter; a few <BR> days later, they learned that the restorer had taken the cottage for <BR> another year. Once again, the lease was paid in full, with all the <BR> paperwork handled by the same obscure lawyer in Hamburg.<BR> With that, life returned to something like normal. They would <BR> see the restorer in mid-morning when he came to the village with <BR> his wife to do their marketing, and they would see him again in <BR> mid-afternoon when he hiked along the cliff tops in his Barbour <BR> coat and his flat cap pulled low over his brow. And if he failed <BR> to give them a proper greeting, they took no offense. And if he <BR> seemed uneasy about something, they gave him room to work it <BR> out on his own. And if a stranger came to town, they tracked his <BR> every move until he was gone. The restorer and his wife might <BR> have come from Italy originally, but they belonged to Cornwall<BR> now, and heaven help the fool who ever tried to take them <BR> away again.<BR> There were, however, some on the Lizard who believed there <BR> was more to the story—and one man in particular who believed he <BR> knew what it was. His name was Teddy Sinclair, owner of a rather <BR> good pizzeria in Helston and a subscriber to conspiracy theories <BR> large and small. Teddy believed the moon landings were a hoax. <BR> Teddy believed 9/11 was an inside job. And Teddy believed the <BR> man from Gunwalloe Cove was hiding more than a secret ability <BR> to heal paintings.<BR> To prove his case once and for all, he summoned the villagers to <BR> the Lamb and Flag on the second Thursday of November and <BR> unveiled a chart that looked a bit like the periodic table of elements. <BR> It purported to establish, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the <BR> explosions at the Iranian nuclear facilities were the work of a <BR> legendary Israeli intelligence officer named Gabriel Allon—and that <BR> the same Gabriel Allon was now living peacefully in Gunwalloe <BR> under the name Giovanni Rossi. When the laughter finally died <BR> down, Duncan Reynolds called it the dumbest thing he’d heard <BR> since some Frenchman decided that Europe should have a common <BR> currency. But this time Teddy stood his ground, which in hindsight<BR> was the right thing to do. Because Teddy might have been <BR> wrong about the moon landings, and wrong about 9/11, but when <BR> it came to the man from Gunwalloe Cove, his theory was in every <BR> respect true.<BR> The next morning, Remembrance Day, the village woke to the <BR> news that the restorer and his wife had disappeared. In a panic, <BR> Vera Hobbs hurried down to the cove and peered through the <BR> windows of the cottage. The restorer’s supplies were scattered across <BR> a low table, and propped on the easel was a painting of a nude <BR> woman stretched upon a couch. It took Vera a moment to realize<BR> that the couch was identical to the one in the living room, and <BR> that the woman was the same one she saw each morning in her <BR> bakeshop. Despite her embarrassment, Vera couldn’t seem to summon<BR> the will to look away, because it happened to be one of the <BR> most strikingly beautiful paintings she had ever seen. It was also <BR> a very good sign, she thought as she headed back to the village. A <BR> painting like that was not the sort of thing a man left behind when <BR> he was making a run for it. Eventually, the restorer and his wife <BR> would come back. And heaven help that bloody Teddy Sinclair if <BR> they didn’t.<BR> <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>Portrait of a Spy</b> by <b>Daniel Silva</b> Copyright © 2011 by Daniel Silva. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.