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Meet the author:
"HOW MANY children?" Marsuvees Black asked, examining his fingernails.
Showdown: The Books of History Chronicles
Strange behavior for a man interviewing for such a lofty position.
"Thirty-seven," David said. "And they may be only thirteen or fourteen years old, but I wouldn't call them children. They are students, yes, but most of them already have the intelligence of a postgraduate. Believe me, you've never met anyone like them."
Black settled back in the tall leather chair and pressed his thumbs and fingers together to form a triangle. He sighed. The monk from the Nevada desert was a strange one, to be sure. But David Abraham, director of the monastery's project, had to admit that genius was often accompanied by eccentric behavior.
"Thirty-seven special children who could one day change humanity's understanding of the world," Black said. "I think I could pull myself from my desert solitude for such a noble task. Wouldn't you agree? God knows I've been in solitude for three years now."
"You'll have to take that up with God," David said. "With or without you, our project will one day change the world. I can guarantee you that."
"Then why do you need me? You're aware of my"--he hesitated--"that I'm not exactly your typical monk."
"Naturally. I would say you're hardly a monk at all. You've spent a few years atoning for rather gratuitous sins, and for that I think you possess a unique appreciation for our struggle with evil."
"What makes you think I've beaten my demons?"
"Do we ever?"
"Yes, we do," David said.
"If any man has truly beaten his demons, I have. But the struggle isn't over. There are new battles every day. I don't know why you need a conflicted man like me."
David thought a moment. "I don't need you. But God might. I think he does."
Black raised an eyebrow. "No one knows, you say? No one at all?"
"Only the few who must."
"And the project is sponsored by Harvard University?"
"That is correct."
David had spent months narrowing his search for the right teacher to fill the vacant post. Marsuvees Black brought certain risks, but the job was his if he chose to take the vow of secrecy and sequester himself in the Colorado Mountains with them for the next four years.
The monk stared at his fingernail again. Scratched at it. A soft smile crossed his face.
"I'll let you know," he said.