Following the theft of a barbarian crown from the Museum of London, Devlin O’Brien heads back to his hotel room, only to be confronted by the puppeteer who has been pulling on his strings since breaking him out of La Santé: an elegant Lady, clad in splendor and secrets, flanked by the strange Mila and a silent giant of a man. Admitting to her role in steering both Devlin and Sarah into open conflict with Asher and his backers in the United Kingdom, the Lady has come in person to offer Devlin another job. Somewhere in the greater London area, there is a key. That key can be used to unlock the secrets contained within the golden book, stolen by Asher from the bank in Limassol. Devlin’s job, should he choose to accept it, is to discover the location of that key and retrieve it – as well as the book, at some point in the future – so that the Lady can use the information contained within for unknown purpose. In addition to the promise of a hefty payday, the Lady promises that doing these things will clear away any protection Asher should possess.
To that end, Mila reveals that she has been hired as Devlin’s personal bodyguard for the coming difficult days and forcibly inserts herself into his growing team of thieves and criminals. Operating under the assumption that Devlin will accept the offered terms, the lady provides him with two invitations to an exclusive event where the first of many clues might well be found: The Green Light Gala.
The Green Light turns out to be nothing so much as an elaborate dinner party for the criminal underworld elite; an excuse to cut deals and carve out territory, while also displaying their accumulated wealth and comparing it to the fortunes of their peers and competition. While there, Devlin and Sarah receive a slip of paper with coordinates pointing to a small town in the English countryside and encounter Asher himself, when the traitorous man makes an appearance at the gala in person. Hamstrung by the rules of the gala, Devlin can only exchange tense words with his former friend before beating a hasty treat. From there, the foursome – Devlin, Sarah, Michel, and Mila – make their way toward the manor house indicated by the coordinates, where the next clue might be found.
Sophie, the concierge from the Brooklands, proves herself equal to the task of assisting Devlin and his team. Using her connections and what must be an inexhaustible fund, she purchases a cottage in the area, arranges for subtler methods of transportation, and acquires a computer system for Sarah’s use.
Sarah immediately begins work on a virus to incapacitate whatever security there might be, Devlin and Michel physically surveil the target area and the surrounding countryside. One stop along the way leads to them to a local pub; its owners, Cat and Evan; and one of the manor house’s guards, having sharing a meal with a small girl in possession of some very complicated mathematical textbooks in topics ranging from theoretical physics to advanced cryptography.
Sarah estimates that it will take her several days to work up a proper plan to infiltrate the manor house, retrieve the information the team seeks, and leave without making a fuss. That timeline is scuttled when Mila, on a run for some snacks, discovers that there are plans to remove the girl from the manor house. All four agree that the criminals in charge of the manor house, whoever that might be, are not the types to allow a possible witness – especially a small child – to leave without taking permanent steps to ensure her silence. Instead of waiting for everything to be in place, they put their plan into action on the third day after they arrive.
The plan is simple: Devlin, pretending to be an agent of the Magi, uses the illusion of authority to draw the guards’ attention to him, while Sarah – through a physically installed clip at the backbone of the manor house’s internetwork – provides validation for his stories and siphons all information contained within. When that task is suitably automated, Devlin is to remove the girl from the manor house and take her to a safe location where time can be taken to figure out her connection to the conspiracies tangling themselves around them all.
That plan falls apart remarkably quickly when the Magi’s real agent – a tattooed, scarred man with a small team of highly trained professionals – arrives at the manor house while Devlin and company are still waiting for Sarah to finish with her digital tasks. What’s worse: Mila, unflappable and unmoved in any situation they’d encountered thus far, is rendered near catatonic at the very sight of the new man, whom she calls Aiden.
With their tenuous grasp over the situation weakening, Devlin leads Michel and Mila up to the girl’s room, only to find that the guard named Neal – the same one who they’d seen at dinner with the girl before – is midway through an attempt to sneak her out of the manor house. Devlin decides to add the two of them to their party on the fly, and uses a network of secret passages to escape the manor house…but not before Aiden blows up the computer itself, in an effort to terminate any possible connection that could be made to the system. Sarah has some files, but not all, and there isn’t any time to formulate a second option.
She meets them at the exit of the tunnel, useless from an electronic standpoint, and Michel takes over as Aiden and his wheelman pursue them in a tense race through the streets of the small, sleepy town and onto the highway, until Mila finally recovers enough to put a bullet into the rear tires of Carlos’ vehicle. Using that space and the rare moment to catch their breath, they take steps to ensure they haven’t been followed and head back to the Brooklands to recover and evaluate their new position.
Along the way, Sarah discovers that none of the information contained in the documents she managed to steal from the manor house contain the decryption key. She is prepared to call the entire event a waste of time when a single misstep, a few pages in a diary, and an outburst from the girl Avis reveals the truth of the matter: she isn’t merely a ward of the Magi, nor is she a wunderkind who managed to create a code of sufficient strength to stymie even Sarah’s prodigious skills. She is the code itself: a human being capable of creating complex algorithms in her head and applying them to text in the blink of an eye.
This explains her presence at the manor house and the reason for her assumed freedom. She is an asset, yes, and a mathematical genius, but she was also a prisoner: a bird, trapped in a cage, unable to fly free. Now that she finds herself in the company of the thieves, will she turn her skills against those who kept her hostage? Or will she seek the comfort of familiarity…even if that means she must clip her own wings to do so?