WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM
The winter of 1997–98 had been unusually mild and wet around the world, a climate anomaly that meteorologists blamed on the presence of a warm current in the eastern Pacific Ocean known as El Nino. In the Chicago area, the gray, rainy weather had persisted well after spring had set in, but there was not a single cloud in sight the morning of April 15, when Jule and Laura met with Trench and Richter to discuss the state of the Pythagoras search operation. That same morning, one thousand kilometers away, Johanna Davidson was driving from Boston to Montreal to attend a much anticipated mathematics lecture at McGill University.
They were meeting in the Temple’s Council Room, where the Order’s highest authority held its official sessions. An oval table with eight upholstered chairs around it occupied most of the space. On the wall at the end of the room hung a gold-framed oil portrait of the enigmatic Mr. S, the Order’s founder, a silent observer of the Council’s deliberations. Jule and Laura stared at the picture of the austere-looking man with the white beard and piercing black eyes before taking a seat on one side of the table. Trench and Richter sat across from them, facing the two large windows through which the morning sun was pouring in. The purpose of the meeting was to take stock of the situation and to plan the future course of action. The mood in the room was gloomy, in sharp contrast with the splendid weather outside.