Helen von Fuchs Pendergast (née Esterházy) was an epidemiologist and pharmaceutical biologist, and the wife of Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast. First referenced by Pendergast in Relic, she appears in the three Pendergast novels that make up the "Helen Trilogy" (Fever Dream, Cold Vengeance, and Two Graves).
Helen is described as being tawny-skinned, lightly freckled, long-limbed, of average height, and being stunningly beautiful, with long, lustrous auburn hair, and blue eyes flecked with violet.
When she was last seen by Aloysius Pendergast, she was noted to be pale, with crow's feet at the corners of her eyes.
Helen von Fuchs Esterházy was born in Nova Godoi, Brazil to András Ferenc Esterházy and Leni Faust Schmid. The family left Brazil when Helen was in the second grade and settled in Rockland, Maine. Despite speaking only Portuguese at the time of her arrival in the United States, Helen progressed quickly. She was intelligent and excelled in school. She later attended MIT and became a medical doctor. She also held a Masters degree in pharmaceutical biology.
Career and Personal Life
After her graduate work, Helen's love of traveling and fascination with medical research led her to her first and only job, with Doctors With Wings, a charity that flew doctors into third world disaster areas.
The Esterhazys were part of a group of Nazi loyalists called Der Bund, or "the Covenant," that fled Europe after World War II and established itself in the town of Nova Godoi, Brazil. Helen and Judson's great-uncle was the notorious SS doctor Wolfgang Faust, a protege of Josef Mengele. The Covenant's experiments in eugenics and genetic manipulation traced as far back as the Nazi regime, with the ultimate goal of creating a breed of superhumans to establish the Fourth Reich. Even the family's move from Brazil to Maine was a Covenant experiment, designed to test how their subjects would function in outside society.
Their primary research involved gene manipulation in twins, transferring the best genetic material to one embryo, leaving the inferior genes in the other.
Two weeks after meeting Pendergast, Helen became pregnant. As the product of Covenant experiments herself, she was genetically "prepared" to always bear twins; however, a side effect of that manipulation was that special treatments were necessary to carry her fetuses to term. Electing not to tell Pendergast of the pregnancy, Helen claimed she had been called away on a trip for Doctors With Wings, and instead returned to Nova Godoi and gave birth to twin boys under the supervision of the Covenant. The genetically superior twin was named Alban. The weaker twin was referred to only as "Forty-Seven." Later, his father would call him "Tristram."
Helen left her sons in Brazil, returned to the United States and married Aloysius, living together at Penumbra Plantation. They were by all accounts very happy.
One of Helen and Aloysius's shared passions was big game hunting. They spent a few weeks each winter hunting in East Africa. Helen once saved Aloysius's life when they were attacked by a wounded Cape buffalo. As the wounded animal charged them, Helen calmly knelt and fired four shots. She shattered both of the animal's front legs and it tumbled and fell, coming to rest just a few feet from the couple.
Audubon and Project Aves
From a young age, Helen was deeply interested in John James Audubon. A framed reproduction of Plate 121 of Audubon's Birds of America hung in her childhood bedroom. As an adult, her research into Audubon brought her to the Audubon Cottage, a small museum on Dauphine Street in New Orleans where Audubon and his wife had stayed for some time after their Kentucky frontier store failed. It was during one of her visits to the museum, at an exhibition of Audubon prints, that she first met Aloysius Pendergast, who had loaned his family's double elephant folio to the museum for the exhibition.
Even after they were married, Helen continued to make several short trips around the south in search of the Audubon painting called The Black Frame. After discovering the painting's secret, she hoped to develop a miracle drug based on the avian flu virus that would enhance human mental abilities. Helen brought the concept to her brother Judson, whose contacts in the pharmaceutical industry could finance and develop the drug. Together with Longitude Pharmaceuticals, they helped launch Project Aves. The research quickly proved prohibitively expensive, however, and the project began cutting corners by ignoring safety protocols. Eventually, one of the birds being used to cultivate and test the virus escaped and infected a family in a nearby town, and the group elected to simply observe the innocent victims as test subjects. When the family ultimately died and Longitude buried their involvement, Helen threatened to expose the entire operation. After failing to buy her silence, Longitude CEO Charles Slade ordered her death.Longitude–and Project Aves–was a Covenant satellite operation, and when the decision was made to kill Helen, it was Judson who was tasked with carrying it out–an assignment that ultimately pushed him to secretly break from the Covenant. The hunting accident was in fact an elaborate ruse in which Judson substituted Helen's profoundly retarded and terminally ill twin to convince Longitude and the Covenant that Helen had been killed. The deception worked, and Helen remained safely hidden for the next twelve years, when a random cursory examination of her rifle by Pendergast set him on the path to discovering what had really happened to her. After Pendergast unraveled the secrets of her disappearance, she reunited briefly with him, but the Covenant had already learned she was alive. They kidnapped her minutes after their reunion, wounding Pendergast and killing Judson in the process. Pendergast followed Helen's kidnappers for four days, finally catching up with them near Cananea, Mexico. A shootout ensued and one of Helen's captors shot her in the chest with a pistol. Aloysius held his wife as she died. Her last words to him were "He's coming... Mercy... Have mercy...". Devastated to have lost his the love of his life twice, Pendergast buried her in the desert.
Some time following her death, Helen's body was exhumed by the Covenant, who performed an autopsy on her remains. Pendergast later recovered her star sapphire wedding ring from the Covenant laboratory where it was done.