….This is NOT my voice. This is an actual, trained, voice-over talent, not some flea-bitten old novelist. Or me.
I still love this flick. It’s only a minute long, but packs everything in nicely.
….This is NOT my voice. This is an actual, trained, voice-over talent, not some flea-bitten old novelist. Or me.
I still love this flick. It’s only a minute long, but packs everything in nicely.
“There have been, and will be again, many destructions
of mankind…just when you and other nations are
beginning to be provided with letters and the other
requisites of civilized life…the stream from heaven,
like a pestilence, comes pouring down, and leaves only
those of you who are destitute of letters and education;
and so you have to begin all over again like children,
and know nothing of what happened in ancient times…”
Timaeus and Critias
Dateline: Friday, 7 December 2012
Israeli Police HQ, Jerusalem
It was the most vivid nightmare he’d ever had: finding Dr. Dincke slaughtered on the floor of his Baltimore office, being questioned by the police, then coming back to Cyndi’s country place, telephoning for pizza only to have the cops show up and—
—hit him harder than he’d ever been hit before—even harder than that damned car had, Monday night, when he’d gone flying head over heels in love with the dark.
Now the dark loved him in return, as a needle entered his arm and he went down, down, dowwwn to a place where only the dead slept so soundly—no dreams, no visions, no giants . . . only the utter nothingness of oblivion.
When Dave awoke this time, he wasn’t on the sofa with the increasingly sexy Cyndi, or even on her living room floor. This time, when he awoke, he was lying next to no one. And he seemed to be moving, somehow. Fast.
He turned to his left and saw what looked like an airplane window (Row L, Seat 13) with a splendid view of the night. Darkness. Stars. He could even hear—or thought he could hear—the high whine of jet engines on either side of the giant L1011.
But it was probably a dream.
Of course. That’s all it was—he was dreaming of his flight from Israel, a week ago, when he’d fled Eilat, leaving those bodies, questions and suspicions behind. And now . . .
. . . well, and now he was having another nightmare—a real one this time, courtesy of his scrambled egg-brain. What had Cyndi called it? A “bad” concussion? How apt. It certainly felt “bad:” busted, pulped and bleeding.
Only now, at last, he was coming to . . . bleary and blinking as the unbearably bright, white light flashed in his eyes, and the man with the long, hard hands slapped and slapped and slapped him . . . The same man who’d cracked him in the jaw with a gun.
And this time, when his vision cleared, Dave saw that he was surrounded by—were those Israeli police uniforms? With the sky-blue tunics and the navy slacks and the—
—no . . . no way, this was the nightmare, this was not real, this was not—
—real enough for government work!—his brain shrieked as the woman beside him (Cyndi?) began slapping him as well, her long, black hair brushing his face as he looked into her deep, blue, Israeli eyes and—
—blue Israeli eyes?—
—no, no way, this was—
“David, wake up!”
“Wake up, David!”
—yes, this was Cyndi, slapping him awake and
knocking him out again.
Hours later, when he awoke, he saw all.
With Cyndi lying naked (!?) beside him, fast asleep. No Israeli police officers, no Mossad agents, no planes. It had all been a dream. A very bad, very realistic dream.
Cyndi had nodded off on the job, simple as that. She was supposed to keep him awake until midnight, but here it was, eight o’clock or thereabouts . . . and they’d both fallen asleep. Well, no harm done. He’d go interview Dr. Galilei in the morning. So, everything he’d just experienced had been a dream . . . But all of it?
What the hell kind of concussion was this? He felt as if he’d had two or three separate nightmares, interspersed with even more nightmarish waking moments—like the bleak, bare interrogation room at Israeli Police HQ, of all places. Man, he’d really done a number on his brain. He felt vaguely numb, stupid, dull and drugged—heavily drugged. Yet, his head still hurt like a broken tooth, and his face—
—his face felt as if—
—as if someone were still slapping him. Hard.
He could even hear it. Too, too weird. No one was there, no one was hitting him or shaking him or slapping him aw—
“—Wake up, American pig . . .”
—oh, but yes, they were . . . hell yes, they—
Only this time, when Dave Connors came to, he really did wake up.
And he was definitely not at Cyndi’s.
Along with two Mossad agents and an IPD detective—the three from Cyndi’s. The latter was the one with the amazingly long, hard hands, like wooden paddles. He was also the one who’d thoughtfully cracked him in the jaw with the pistol. He was the one who’d been slapping him all night, finally bringing him around with the pretty blue-eyed Israeli nurse injecting him with strange concoctions.
“Who the hell are—”
“Yes, who the hell indeed,” said the Inspector. “Your hell, apparently.” He was an older man, with a craggy face and hooded, coal-black eyes. He leaned down and smiled. “If you wish to see your home again, young man, you will not swear in my presence.”
“What do you think you’re—”
Schriever leaned even closer to him and spat: “Doing? To you? We are doing nothing to you, American. We are merely entertaining you, as our guest.” He fixed Dave with his soulless, black eyes—shark’s eyes—and grinned. “And, until you tell us about those murders in Eilat, we will continue . . . entertaining you.”
“But . . . I don’t—”
Schriever nodded and out came the boots. To the ribs, mostly, to avoid leaving any marks. Dave knew from his SEAL training that this punching and kicking to the body was called “dry” interrogation—as opposed to the more tell-tale, “wet” variety.
For now . . . the ribs. And the kidneys.
Kidneys, yes, and the liver. And that really hurt—a deep, all-pervasive, swelling ache that made him want to throw up.
Then the hip.
The bastards hadn’t overlooked that delicate spot. Dave knew they would play on that—and they did. Skillfully. For hours . . .
They saved the testicles for last.
Not merely because it was sound interrogation procedure or because they liked crushing a man’s balls in their fists . . .
. . . well, actually, yes it was: they liked it. And they were damned good at it.
After seven hours of torture, reconciliation, promises, sweet talk and more torture, they realized the American would not break.
“Not because he’s so tough,” Schriever told Sgt. Heim. “He simply doesn’t know anything. If he did, he would have cracked by now.”
Heim glanced at David, who was still strapped backwards over a chair seat, his back arched, wrists and ankles hog-tied beneath him.
“So he’s innocent?” Heim asked.
Schriever shrugged. “Of the Eilat murders, yes. But what man is truly innocent?”
Heim shrugged. “Now what?”
“Dispose of him,” Schriever said.
“But, where? How?”
“In the desert, Sergeant. Burn any I.D. he might have on him. Oh, and be sure to remove the head, hands and feet. Burn those separately.”
Heim nodded. Although he admired the American’s toughness, he would do as ordered: he would dispose of Connors somewhere in the Negev—parts of him, anyway—in a remote, quiet and isolated place. And who knew? Maybe years from now, the young man’s remains might be discovered by an archaeologist—someone like Dr. Oded, perhaps —who would mistake them for an older, more historic find. A prince, even, or a priest. Someone important . . . not just another anonymous corpse.
The Holy Land already had plenty of those.
Only one problem, as Schriever pointed out: the night was nearly spent, and daylight was only an hour away. Not exactly the best time to go careening about Jerusalem with a dead American in one’s car.
“We’ll wait for nightfall,” Schriever told Heim. “Until then, leave him in isolation. Who knows? He might talk, after all.”
But Schriever doubted it. Not that it mattered—either way, the American was dead. Returning him to the U.S. now, in this condition, was out of the question. But at least Connors might help him appreciate the workings of the degenerate American mind—help him to understand why.
Besides, killing him wouldn’t really be murder: Schriever and his one-time brethren of the Mossad weren’t just cops, they were physical extensions of the law. And the law stated that when someone murdered Israeli citizens—in Israel—someone paid with his life. So, he wasn’t breaking the law—he was fulfilling it. Executing a sentence. And he wouldn’t lose a wink of sleep. Never did. Except when he thought of his wife, Yakira, and her mental state.
Then he never slept.
Dave, likewise, could not sleep. Not that it mattered; he was beyond such considerations. Asleep or conscious, life or death, meant nothing to him now: he was adrift on a sea of pain and delirium. The past 12 hours had left him insensible—gasping, trembling and strangely numb; he couldn’t move a muscle. And although he hadn’t talked, he could see in the morning light that he’d wet himself, puked and bled all over.
(The only easy day was yesterday.)
(But SEALS don’t feel pain, SEALS don’t feel pain, SEALS don’t feel . . .)
. . . pain was everywhere: in addition to the hip-pointer, thigh bruise and concussion, he now had a broken rib, shattered left upper molar, cracked cheekbone, bruised kidneys and blood in his urine. And the tendons in his shoulders and elbows would never be the same.
But he was still game. Still good enough for government work.
And he had twelve hours till sundown.
Picking up where we left off last week:
The Baltimore P.D. didn’t believe their story.
David could hardly blame them. Here they were, responding to a 911 call to the college, only to find the sliced and diced remains of the esteemed Dr. Dincke and two total strangers standing over him. Not good.
Worse, Dave’s hip was really singing out now; the thigh and head were throbbing, too, the concussion still rendering him stupid and wobbly as a new-born calf. He was also tired. And outraged.
Not at the cops—they were only doing their job. He was outraged by the savagery done to Dr. Dincke. The old fellow was a harmless, old academic; a nerd; a geek. A bit light in the loafers, but so what? He was no threat to anyone. That he was so genteel made his murder all the more infuriating, to David. It also meant something else:
The killer—the thing that had butchered the three in Israel—was in the U.S. now. And looking for him.
The cops finally cut the two of them loose a few hours later, when their alibis checked. One of them, after all, was the most beautiful, exotic business–woman they’d ever seen, let alone interviewed. And she was Assistant Director of a university observatory, in Alexandria. Which they verified. If David needed a reason to feel grateful for Cyndi’s presence, this was it.
So, shortly before six o’clock that evening, the cops let them go. Cyndi helped Dave gimp-walk his way back up the tunnel to the parking garage and the RX9. Moments later, they were headed back home. With nothing. No confirmation, no additional info, no nothing . . . only the image of poor old Dincke’s mutilated neck and skull.
They began their journey home at the height of Baltimore’s rush-hour—another bonus from their trip northward—which, on the I-395 Expressway, meant a blistering 25-30 miles per hour. In spurts. Without Tylenol, Excedrin, or even aspirin. All the way to D.C., where they managed to hit a pot-hole the size of one of the moon’s smaller craters and completely bottomed out, scraping the Mazda’s undercarriage, leaf springs—even the brake line moldings.
Which dislodged the tiny, jumper-pin-sized transmitter Sgt. Heim & Friends had placed there the previous evening.
Once they lost the signal, it was only a matter of time before they lost the car altogether, in the dark.
Oblivious to it all, Cyndi and Dave flew the rest of the way home, clocking a cool 75-80 mph. Not only did they lose the little black sedan (which David never noticed), they also managed to avoid every state trooper from Annapolis to Arlington. Yet, for the next two hours, all Dave could think of—all he could see in his mind’s merciless semi-photographic memory—was Dr. Dincke’s corpse.
Not merely the butchery done on him; that was sickening enough. What really made Dave urp inside was the look on Dincke’s face. He’d died with an expression of terror—not fear, not horror, but terror—etched into his features. As if the very walls around him had come alive and started stabbing him.
And the back of his head. God, the head . . .
And his neck, with the spinal cord hanging out, and leaking.
. . . and that smell. That gut-churning, vomitous smell . . . like a thousand dead cats left in a closet to rot. And that was a smell Dave never forgot.
He just hoped he’d never smell it again.
They finally got back to Cyndi’s country home just before nine o’clock, a round trip that took nine hours and gave nothing in return. Zilch.
Dave collapsed on the sofa, alone. Cyndi wanted to shower and change, then settle in for a night’s planning.
“Planning?” he asked. “For what, Doomsday?”
“Something like that, yes,” she replied. Amazing: all this running and racing around, dodging homicidal sports cars, hospitals, dead professors and cops, and here she was, looking fresh as a high-school hearth-throb on her first big date. As for David, he had more than enough to occupy his mind for now. (And he certainly didn’t want to think of her showering, naked, just a few feet away . . . dangerous thoughts for dangerous times.) No, he had to keep the big head in the driver’s seat. Such as it was.
For he had new angles to consider, fresh avenues to explore. Because, so far, nothing was panning out for him. Them. He and Cyndi. So easy to think of them as a team, all of a sudden. So natural of him to think of her as his partner in all this . . . whatever “all this” was. One thing was certain:
After all the running around, phone calls and driving, he was back to Square One. No closer to this “God Key” nonsense than when Cyndi first clued him to it, on Monday. Sure, he’d snapped a few photos of Dr. Galilei’s Roswell sketch—but that’s all they were: photos of a sketch. Not proof. For that matter, the magazine didn’t have even have the original Commandments photos to run alongside the Roswell stuff. They’d been lost in the Durant house fire.
His friend and editor, Will Durant was dead; Dave heard about it on Channel 6 news that night. Home burned, papers torched, photos turned to so much ash. Lost and gone for good, this time, and . . .
. . . and, God in Heaven, he was tired. Too tired to sleep.
Yet, he had to find out what this God Key was all about. And how it was supposed to “help” him, as Cyndi suggested. And what it was that Dr. Dincke had wanted so badly to tell him—badly enough to have him drive all the way to Baltimore. Badly enough to die—to be slaughtered—like all the others . . . David Connors felt his forehead slipping askew, and he’d lost balance, as if the earth had shifted slightly on its axis.
Just thinking about Dr. D’s horrific end made David dizzy and pissed all over again. He snapped out his wallet, found Galilei’s card and punched the numbers on his phone. If anyone had a clue as to what Dincke had wanted to tell him, it would be his pal, Galilei. And Dave didn’t give a damn what time it was, he was getting some answers. Now.
Galilei’s office phone rang twice, then forwarded the call to his home phone. A few rings later, the Doc himself came on the line, sounding groggy and put out.
“Hey, Dr. Galilei? This is Dave Connors.”
A pause, then: “Who?”
“Dave Connors. Cyndi’s friend? I met with you yesterday. You showed me your Roswell sketch and your slide show on ancient aliens . . . remember?”
Another pause, this time longer. “Who did you say this was?”
Dave felt the earth shift slightly on its axis.
“Dave Connors,” he said. “Our friend Cyndi sent me to see you yesterday at noon, remember? You referred me to your friend in Baltimore, Dr. Dincke? Well, I went up there to see him today, Doc, but he was in no condition for—”
“You must have me confused with someone else,” Galilei said. “I don’t know any Cindys, or anything about aliens, and I have no friends at all in Baltimore. Please, I’m having dinner and—”
“Listen, you pop-eyed, pencil-necked little geek,” Dave said, “You’re not fobbing me off; I recognize your voice. Now, what do you suppose your dead pal Dr. Dincke wanted to tell me? Huh? More about the Nephilim and the Rephaim—the Gilgal Rephaim? Remember? And the Anak—”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Galilei cried. “You must be a crank—this is a crank call! Don’t ever call here again—whoever you are!”
“C’mon, Doc, the joke’s—”
But Galilei had already hung up on him.
Dave stared at the phone before he, too, finally hung up. Yes, he was sure of it now: the earth had indeed shifted on its axis.
And not just slightly.
Less than half an hour after their phone conversation, at 9:27 p.m., yet another fresh corpse was being poked, prodded and pawed by Alexandria Police detectives, along with a forensics team from the City Medical Examiner’s office. The corpse in question was a lump of meat found floating in a swamp of sticky, coagulating blood and other fluids on its kitchen floor.
The victim, a male in his early forties, balding, and with a prominent brow ridge, was wearing a lab coat that had probably been white at one time. No more. Someone had ripped the back of his neck open, torn out his spinal cord, then severed and . . . drained it. No one there, not even the most hardened homicide detectives, had ever seen anything like it.
The murderer had gained entry by smashing through the man’s kitchen door, literally bursting it off its hinges. Whoever it was, he was big. Very big. And bad. And more than a little demented.
The victim lived alone, and there were no witnesses. A neighbor had heard some dogs barking earlier, but that was all.
The question of the moment was, who? A student? A jilted lover? Both? No one could say. The detectives and forensics people were utterly baffled by the lack of physical evidence: the killer had left nothing behind: no prints, hair, DNA or fiber. Nada—though a small, spiral notebook binder was found on the floor, with all its pages torn out, and parts of some ancient, onion-skin stationary lying nearby. Yet, not a single print. Zilch. Nothing.
Nothing but the sickly sweet stench of death and rotting meat that filled the house.
The forensics people looked dazed; the city detectives, nauseous. All of them looked frightened, as if this were the work of some demon in their midst, and any of them could be next. Like their late friend and colleague, Sgt. Lacy.
Unfortunately, the recent murder of Dr. Richard Dincke, in far away Baltimore, had yet to make the local news or the detectives’ police wire, so they had no inkling of any related crimes.
But that didn’t help the late Dr. Ross Galilei. Like his friend Dr. Dincke, in Baltimore, Dr. G was stone dead. Deader than dead. Eyes wide open and staring.
Frozen in mid-scream.
While city police detectives were bagging the battered, blood-spattered remains of Dr. Galilei, a large, shambling, misshapen man—a deformity, perhaps—appeared among the headstones in the old Alexandria National Cemetery, across from the intersection of South Payne and Wilkes Street. Where Dave Connors lived.
All the dogs along that stretch of Wilkes immediately began barking. Indoors or out, a pampered pet or a wandering stray, they let loose a storm of howling and wailing like nothing the locals had ever heard—especially not at 9:30 on a work night. The dogs did not like this mis-made man, this deformity. He smelled bad. Very bad.
As in dead.
Dead, yes, but moving nonetheless. His size and shape were bewildering to the dogs: a vast, lumpy clump of a man, as if a chunk of the graveyard had suddenly uprooted itself and slouched forward—though it did assume a kind of humanoid shape.
He was like the hated mailman, in that he seemed to wear a sort of uniform. This, along with the rich, ripe reek of death, was what sent the dogs into such an ecstasy of barking. The deformed hobo approached one of the animals, a mean old boxer named Mojo, who was leashed to its back porch railing, about four houses away.
As the deformity drew near, he appeared to study the dog, turning its misshapen “head” this way and that. Then he grabbed the boxer with one huge, ham-like hand, produced a bronze dagger in the other and . . . sliced the back of the dog’s neck open.
Even as poor old Mojo was bleeding out, still kicking slightly, the stinking, hulking brute stuck the tip of his ancient blade into the dog’s cervical vertebrae, dug it in nice and deep and . . .
* plop! *
. . . popped out its spinal cord. And began sucking.
Sucking and slurping.
When it was finished, the deformed man released the dead dog to dangle by its ruined neck from the leash tied to the porch, twitching and twisting in the wind, a slaughtered thing. While the thing that slaughtered it, still reeking, shambled back into the graveyard, where it nestled among a line of trees and tall monuments in the cemetery’s center. There, refreshed and restored, it resumed waiting. For the main course.
It would not have to wait long.
“I’ve got to get back to my apartment,” Dave told her that evening. “My car, the rest of my clothes, and all my old Roswell stuff is back there.”
“No way,” Cyndi said, as if that ended the discussion.
“So, am I to lay around here indefinitely? Talking to professors I’ve interviewed who disavow all knowledge of me? I’ve gotta have a shower at least.”
“I told you when you got here that I’d take care of everything,” she replied. “I’ve retrieved your cat, his food and treats, and brought back some of your things. Are you feeling up to a shower and a change of clothes? At this hour of night?”
“Hell yes. We’ve got places to see, people to do.”
She gazed at him a moment, as if sizing him up. “Well, you seemed to gimp around all right in Baltimore. And you managed to get to and from Dr. Galilei’s office without further damage. Very well, then,” she added. “I’ll run you a shower and lay out some of your clothes. Are you hungry?”
“Actually, yes,” he answered, then frowned. “Though it seems blasphemous after finding Dincke like that. But, yeah, I could eat.”
“Well, then. I’ll phone for delivery.”
“Who delivers at this hour? Out here?”
“Pizza, Nimrod. Don’t you like pizza?”
“Sure. But I’d like solving this insanity first. Namely, who’s killing these professors and why? First Eilat, now Baltimore?” He shook his head. “Over some photographs? Just . . . doesn’t make any sense.”
“No, it doesn’t. But, first, you must eat. Then, in another day or two, when you can put some more weight on that leg, we’re leaving.”
“Where, back to my place? Get my car?”
“No, idiot. To Israel. To solve all this ‘insanity,’ as you put it.”
David’s face flashed red in an instant, though he tried not to betray his anger.
“How many times do I have to tell you, I’m Not. Going. Back. Ever.”
Now she was smiling at him, like an indulgent parent.
“Silly American. Don’t you know when you’re being swept up by history and fate? You are like a man on a raft in a raging river, skimming away. With me,” she added. “Now, I’ll call the pizza place—Rocco’s, I think. Mushroom and pepperoni OK?”
“And extra cheese,” he said. To his embarrassment, his stomach growled like a caged animal. “And some breadsticks, too.”
“You are a caveman, aren’t you?” she said, still smiling at him—at his stomach, to be exact. “I’ll run your shower—if you can stand up in a tub. Maybe I’ll have to prop you up, just in case . . .”
Dave shrugged. “Yeah. Sure. Whatever floats your boat down that raging river.”
She laughed—a magical, silvery sound. “Well said, young Nimrod. Now, you stay put, I’ll be back in a moment.”
First the laugh, now the hips undulating slightly more than necessary, swaying like a bell as she walked away. Why is she doing this to me? he wondered. When I’m helpless to do anything about it?
“By the way,” she called to him from the hallway, “I’ve a bit of a secret to tell you. About my . . . life. Since coming here to America.”
“Really? You’re a secret pizza smuggler?”
“Even tastier. But I should tell you before we leave for Israel. So you’ll know who you’re traveling with, and what to expect.”
“Gee, I can’t wait.” He began running through the most popular rumors at work about her origins. “Don’t tell me: you’re a runaway from some gypsy family in Romania, right?”
“Not even close.”
“OK, then, you’re a former member of a Turkish harem, escaped from some mad Arab?”
“Closer . . .” she allowed.
“Final guess: your name isn’t really Cyndi Malach, you’re actually a deep-cover Mossad agent sent here to . . . smuggle pizza to wounded American rednecks.”
“Bingo,” she said, laughing. That was when the knock came, at her front door.
“Want me to get it?” Dave called. “Probably the secret Israeli pizza police.”
No response: she’d turned on the bath water and couldn’t hear him.
Another knock at the front door. This one more urgent.
“All right, all right,” he called, “I’m coming. Or gimping . . .”
He got to his feet, supporting himself on the cane. Damn things were tricky until you got the hang of them, and he was only now getting it. He cane-walked to the front door, hoping he had enough money in his wallet to cover it.
He opened the door.
Three Middle Eastern men stood staring at him.
“You are David Connors?” The one in front asked. It was more a statement than a question.
“Who wants to know?”
“You are David Connors?” the man repeated, with an odd yet familiar accent.
“Who the hell are—”
The man cracked him across the jaw with a pistol; Dave dropped to the floor like a dead man.
And Operation Jonah was a success.
Sales of my novel, The God Key, Book I: Return of the Nephilim have been picking up a lot lately. Which is weird and wonderful: weird because the book’s been out for over a year now; and wonderful because I can sure use the income. Granted, it’s not much, but it does keep us in dogfood (7 monster dogs at last count, all of them suitable for Nephilimian mating procedures).
But enough about my love life. Let’s get on with the 3 FREE Chapters:
Levi Schwartz, at the ICRC/Segré Observatory, couldn’t remember being so frustrated.
The anomaly. The asteroids. They weren’t behaving normally, or anything like normally. The first cluster had finally split into its separate parts: 13 separate parts, to be precise; 13 separate asteroids. A fairly rare phenomenon, to be sure, but not entirely unheard of in the realm of asteroids. Most importantly, none of them was big enough to pose a threat to Mother Earth, Apollos or no, so . . . all well and good.
Except that, now, the 13 smaller asteroids had split into 20 even smaller chunks.
And that just wasn’t right. Or normal—even for an anomaly.
Dr. Schwartz watched the phenomena unfold over the shoulder of his assistant director, Dr. Avi Krohen. He sat before the observatory’s main monitor, speechless with frustration and exhaustion; ICRC senior staff hadn’t left their posts in nearly 24 hours.
Dr. Krohen’s post was at the observatory’s 64-inch SamNAC LCD flat panel monitor, which boasted 4220 x 2560 resolution, 1080p HD display, and 256-bit True Color—all of which had been customized for use with the observatory’s various telescopes: optical, radio and multi-spectrum.
The SamNAC provided the sharpest pictures possible, plus multi-screen views from all seven of the observatory’s telescopes and cameras simultaneously, along with live feeds from two other observatories and data stream 24/7 from the twin cosmic ray monitors. No other facility on earth could boast such technology. And, yet, for all the expensive, impressive new hardware, the astronomers were stumped.
“Can’t say I’ve ever seen asteroids behave like this,” Dr. Schwartz remarked.
Dr. Krohen glanced at Schwartz and shrugged. “Maybe that’s because they’re not asteroids . . .”
“Then what are they?”
At first, Krohen made no reply. For no reason whatever, a voice—deep, scaly and reptilian—oiled into his brain: Prophesy for me, Cassandra . . . tell me what will be.
He sat frozen yet trembling at the console. How? How could that be? That, 57 years ago his mother had wanted a daughter—had even named the child before birth as “Cassandra,” only to have a boychild, whom she renamed Avi.
So how had that voice in his ear (brain?) known about that? Krohen shook his head and the sound ceased as suddenly as it had started. He still felt dizzy, as if he would pitch forward and go headfirst through his monitor. Finally, he looked back at the giant SamNAC screen and said: “I . . . have no idea.”
“If they’re not asteroids or comets,” said Schwartz, “not sunspots or solar flares or anything else we can name, then what in God’s name are they?”
Dr. Krohen shrugged. “Who knows? Maybe they’re just . . . space-junk.”
“Space-junk,” Schwartz repeated. And he could only nod. And watch.
Thursday morning, December 7th, only 14 days before the end of the world, David Connors got the shock of his life: worse than being booted from the SEALs . . . more stunning that when he’d won the Fulbright for two years in Israel… even more awesome than the night Cyndi had kissed him, fully, on the mouth.
Cyndi offered to drive him to the interview. With Dr. Dincke. In Baltimore.
Perhaps “offered” wasn’t quite the right word: more like “ordered” him to let her drive and escort him. Since he was, as she said, little better than a gibbering idiot on his best days, he was now reduced to near-catatonia by virtue of his concussion and other injuries. He needed a caretaker, a companion.
“Besides,” she added, “it’s the only way I can keep watch over you. Crazy American Redneck,” she added.
Women . . . Yes, he was certain of it now.
He would never figure them out.
They finally got on the road by 12:10 pm. The sun was up and boiling, sending its delightful flares out in gigantic loops to scorch the earth. Yet, the sky was clear, the weather fine, and the drive was surprisingly pleasant. Especially with Cyndi doing the driving. And although the Mazda was more cramped and less comfortable for someone David Connors’s size and injuries, he didn’t mind one bit: Cyndi was wearing one of her shorter, black skirts and charcoal hose. He was getting an eyeful. He was content.
At least, until they hit the I-395 loop around Washington, D.C., the notorious “Beltway,” where they ran into a maze of detours, cut-offs, and mangled “temporary” lanes. Their trip slowed to, if not a crawl, at least a limp.
Fortunately, he’d downloaded a map of the trip in advance, from Cyndi’s laptop. The main route was highlighted in red, roads to the University of Baltimore in yellow, and the route to Dr. Dincke’s office in the Laboratory of Astrophysics and Space Sciences (LASR) building in light purple (like the Roswell debris symbols).
But that part was over: as he told Cyndi, he’d seen Galilei’s symbols, done up nice and proper in pencil, and compared them with his lone surviving photo of the Commandments—and matched them. He didn’t need his old Roswell photos anymore.
Cyndi, despite her best attempt to hide it, was excited.
True, Dave admitted, sketches and mangled old photos weren’t the best proof, and would not bear scientific scrutiny. But he no longer cared about proof; he knew the symbols matched, and that was good enough for him. He’d already walked through that gate; now he wanted to see what lay beyond it.
Now, it was time to find out just what those symbols meant—on the debris and the Commandments. And learn just who and what these Nephilim really were, and what connection they had, if any, with the recent UFO sightings, the murders in Eilat, or this “God Key” business.
By 2:50 p.m., Cyndi was pulling her RX9 into Baltimore University’s Poe Street parking garage, northwest campus, three floors below surface level—sublevel yellow-C, to be exact.
And the little black sports car parked with them.
Albeit one floor below, on sublevel yellow-D.
The Mossad driver, a young man about Dave’s age, named Moshe, had done an admirable job following their target, always keeping at least a mile or more behind him to avoid detection. No miracle, really: they’d placed a transmitter above the Mazda’s brake lines the night before. If they couldn’t raid the house, at least they could monitor its occupants. Still, it took a steady hand to keep the proper distance and stay out of sight.
Now, they had to hang back. Campus security was spot-checking everyone who emerged from the garage, only this security team had it all: magnetic wands, X-rays, metal detector doorways—the works. And, once again, the American murderer/journalist eluded them. For now.
But not, Sgt. Heim swore to himself, for much longer.
Dincke’s environment was the polar opposite of Dr. G’s. Whereas Galilei’s sat perched on a majestic, tree-lined hill, Dr. D’s was tucked away in the basement of the LASR Building—three floors below the surface—at the end of a dark, dank pedestrian tunnel. And while Dr. Galilei’s office shone with sunlight from three tall, cathedral windows, the passage to Dr. D’s office had no windows, no sunlight, at all.
The tunnel’s gloomy atmosphere settled over them like the swollen corpse of a long-dead drowning victim. Dave even thought he smelled the sickly-sweet stench of rotting bodies wafting through the abysmal air toward them, like a warning. He couldn’t help turning around every so often to look behind them, down the long, black tunnel, to make sure (nothing) no one was following them.
Finally, they reached the branch of the pedestrian tunnel that led to Dr. Dincke’s office. And here all security measures seemed to have gone awry. For here, at the frosted, glass-and-wire-mesh window with the man’s name and title stenciled in black ink—Richard Dincke, PhD. , Physics Dept—they found the door slightly ajar.
Dave poked his head into the doorway. “Hello, Dr. Dincke? It’s Dave Connors.”
Nothing. No sound at all, not even the squeak of a chair or the creak of a drawer.
“Hello? Dr. Dincke?”
David and Cyndi opened the door fully and stepped into the room.
It was a scene of utter chaos: books, papers and magazines; boxes, folders and sofa cushions—even old, back issues of Fleet Street After Dark—were scattered all over the office. It was a picture of pandemonium, another preview of hell.
And a reeking preview at that: the stench of rotting meat and death was much stronger inside the office. At the rear, behind a ruined wooden hutch, Cyndi spotted a doorway leading to a second room. The inner sanctum, as it were.
But “sanctum” did not describe what the two of them saw in there.
For there, strewn along the floor before a massive, oaken desk, were the raw, ravaged remains of 189 pounds of rotting hamburger that was “Richard Dincke, PhD.”
Dave’s stomach lurched; he swallowed and took another step closer on his cane.
And saw . . .
. . . the back of his head and neck.
It was ripped and mutilated, the meat flayed and protruding in bloody, triangular chunks, the bone beneath plainly visible. The spinal cord had been popped out of its vertebral sheath and . . . drained. Recently, too.
Because it was still leaking, Dave noted, as he grabbed the phone and dialed 911.
He caught another taxi all the way back to Cyndi’s country house in Falls Church, hoping he’d beat her home. His timing was perfect: he got back inside the house and on the couch again scarcely seconds before Cyndi returned.
When she opened the front door and saw him beaming up at her from the sofa, she couldn’t help melting a little inside. Whatever else he might be, David Connors was, in the end, a good boy; he’d stayed put just as she’d told him.
“Have a shower?” she asked; he was still soaked. “In your clothes?”
“Ah, well, I did step outside,” he admitted. “Afraid I got caught in the rain.”
He didn’t want to do or say anything to spoil that smile of hers. He didn’t say a word about Dr. Galilei or what he’d done all day. That way, he wouldn’t have to lie to her. True, he still had to call Dr. Dincke in Baltimore. But, with any luck he could do the entire interview by phone—no need to sneak out again or go anywhere near his car or his apartment. Or tell a lie to Cyndi. Ever.
“So,” she said, still smiling, “how was your day otherwise?”
To which he replied: “Well, to be perfectly honest, I actually snuck out and took a cab to see your pal Dr. Galilei, at Washington U., interviewed him for over an hour, got caught in the rain there, then snuck back here by cab and flopped onto the couch again so you wouldn’t notice.” All in one gush.
She blinked. Nodded slightly. Said nothing.
“And now I have to call a friend of his, in Baltimore. Probably have to go there for another interview tomorrow. Heh, heh.”
“Honesty’s a bitch, isn’t it?” she said.
“Oh, you’ve no idea.”
“Oh, but I do. “Just don’t stay on the phone too long,” she said, her voice calm and even.
“I’ll pay the charges,” he said.
“It’s not that,” she said. “I’m making you falafel, lamb chops and Arabian tea. Or would you prefer a trip back to hospital, after disregarding all the advice your doctor and I gave you?”
“Falafel,” he said, “Mmm—sounds great, thanks. And tea yet.”
No response. Not even a blink.
“Hey, put a dollop of vodka in it. Stirred, then shaken.”
“No dice, Mr. Bond. You may have sugar.”
“Speaking of which, do you know what 007’s middle name was?” he asked.
“I’m afraid to ask.”
“It was James,” he answered.
“Sure. Didn’t he always say ‘My name is Bond . . . James Bond?’”
Even though he did a passable Sean Connery, she wasn’t having any of it.
“Just drink your tea.” She sounded stiff and cold as new ice on a pond. She handed him his cup and asked, “And your hip, thigh and head don’t hurt?”
“Hail no,” he lied. “I feel finer than a frog hair.”
“You’re impossible,” she said, and disappeared into the kitchen, still stiff as ice but unable to keep her hips from swaying like a bell as she left. Even when angry, she couldn’t quell her innate allure. Or maybe she was putting it on even more, to taunt him.
“I hate to see you leave,” he called, “but I love to watch you go . . .”
Still no response. Well, he’d tried. Tough room tonight. But far from exploding at him, as he’d figured, she’d merely offered to make him dinner . . . Would he ever figure women out? At least he could make that call to Galilei’s pal, Dr. Richard Dincke of Baltimore—expert in all things biblical, alien, and apocalyptic.
It was just pushing on five o’clock when he reached Dincke at the college. The call went straight to his home telephone. Turned out Dr. Dincke only had two telephones—an office number and a home phone. He did not believe in cell phones.
“Too insecure,” he breathed. He sounded old, British, and very cultured, if a bit effete (at least, to Dave’s American ear).
“Right,” said David, with glance into the kitchen. Cyndi was still busy, clattering with cups and saucers and tea (sans scotch). “And they’re practically useless since these sunspots began,” David added.
“Quite,” said Dincke. “So. We both hate cell phones. What else can I tell you, young man? In fine, sir, what do you want from a jaded, old Luddite like me?”
Dave told him, mentioned he’d interviewed Dr. Ross Galilei, who had recommended Dr. Dincke. Could David, in short, interview him as well?
“Only if you ask, dear boy,” said the doctor.
“And I do. Ask, that is,” David added. “Dr. Galilei said you were the expert on ancient aliens in the Holy Land.”
“Well, I don’t know about ‘expert,’” Dincke said. “But I do have a few (ahem) interesting photos to show you. And they’re far from ‘ancient.’”
This got Dave’s attention. Anyone who managed to hold onto photographs was a step ahead of him.
“Of what?” he asked. “Recent evidence?”
“Oh, better than that. I’ve something really special for you—hot off the press, too. Not even our friend Dr. Galilei knows about this yet.”
“You’re familiar with the Shikmona Beach landings last week?” asked Dr. Dincke. “Or the trace evidence found recently at the Gilgal Rephaim?”
“I think Dr. Galilei mentioned the latter, yes.”
“Well, I have snapshots,” he said, stretching it out, “ . . . of one of the pilots. And that’s something I know old Galileo hasn’t seen.”
“Pilots?” Dave asked. “A Nephilim?
“Bloody hell!” cried Dr. D. “Who taught you that word, our friend Galileo?”
“No, no, I’ve heard it before. I understand they’re in the bible or something?”
“Don’t say it again. You know about December 21st, of course? The Dark Rift, the Great Alignment?”
Dave could hear the Capital Letters in the man’s voice.
“Sure,” he replied. “The end of time, the Mayan calendar, all that?”
“Indeed. Well, young man, it has already begun.”
“Surely you’ve noticed the climate changes, the increase in natural disasters, wars and diseases? New diseases, out of nowhere? Pestilence? Global famine? Along with this sudden rash of UFO sightings? Now this: reports of aliens in backyards, freaks in the streets, monsters. Scaley, fish-like things, vaguely reptilian yet unmistakably humanoid. It’s the return of the Fallen, I tell you.”
“All that is connected to them?”
“Just as connected as your Roswell debris and the Ten Commandments—and for the same reason. And that’s not all: worse is coming. And soon.”
“What do you mean?”
“The beginning of sorrows: the Great Tribulation. Daniel’s Seventieth Week. And those . . . things you mentioned, along with their progeny. ‘But as the days of Noah were, so also shall the coming of the Son of man be.’”
“What’s that? More bible verses?”
“Jesus Christ, predicting the state of affairs at the time of his return. And, by ‘the days of Noah,’ he wasn’t referring simply to the depravity and wickedness of the times, but also the aberrant DNA experiments of those days—monstrous abominations like the Manticore, Gorgons, Cyclops and others.”
“You mean, manimals?”
“Absolutely. God alone knows the full extent of their depravities back then, but it certainly included manimals—among other nameless things. Those days are back, boy, with all manner of loathsome abominations . . . offspring included.”
He kept saying such words: offspring, abominations, progeny, et cetera, like a broken record on an endless turntable. Finally, he said: “But, no more about these creatures; you’ll learn all about them soon enough. No discussing them over the phone.”
Dave felt both excited and creeped out: something about all this—the 2012 Doomsday prophecies, the Roswell symbols, Galilei’s terror, the unmentionable Nephilim—turned on a switch inside him. This was no mere magazine story, this was something else altogether, and it was growing weirder and more ominous by the day. If even 1% of it were true, he had the story of the century—Roswell symbols or no.
He had to know more, then. A lot more. Even if it meant infuriating Cyndi to the point of firing him.
“So, you will get around to the Roswell symbols, right?” he asked.
“Yes, yes, if you insist. But . . . young man, don’t you know? The whole UFO phenomenon is rubbish, a front. This has nothing to do with aliens or space ships. The return of the Fallen is entirely demonic in nature—everything about it. It’s The Great Deception, and it’s all perfectly timed for Mayan Doomsday, December 21st.”
“Well, what about the Nephil-things, or the R-rephaim? Is that how you s—”
“DON’T say those names,” Dincke said. “You’ve no idea . . .”
“That’s what Dr. Galilei said: ‘You’ve no idea.’” So did Dr. Oded, he thought.
“Trust me, young man, you haven’t. Do not mention those names over the phone, or in email, or in any way connected with me, understood?”
“Only face-to-face,” Dr. D added. “We’ll talk when you get here. With any luck, you’ll be able to connect your Roswell symbols and the Ten Commandments to these new photos I’ve got, all of which point to those . . . creatures . . . you mentioned. And, ultimately, to the Big Boy Himself. Now, not another word until we meet, right?”
Once Dave agreed (the Big Boy Himself?), Dr. D. gave him his address, building and office number. It was located below ground level, just off the Poe Street parking garage, in the Laboratory for Astrophysics and Space Research (LASR) building.
The last thing Dr. Dincke told him was, “Promise me you won’t mention a word of this to anyone—not even our friend Galileo. Promise?”
“Well, sure, if—”
“Not even your editor, hear me? Are you still there?”
“Yeah,” Dave said. “I’m still here.”
“Good,” said Dr. D. “I’ll see you in my office. How’s tomorrow at three?”
David hesitated. The University of Baltimore was over three hours away. And he’d have to make the trip in Cyndi’s tiny Mazda: cabs would bankrupt him. Either way, it meant a six-hour round-trip, with a hip-pointer and a deep-thigh bruise. And a concussion.
But the 21st was only two weeks away. If any of this was true, he had to know. Where there was smoke, etc., and the Roswell/Commandments link was a perfect forest fire.
“Tomorrow’s Thursday, right?” he asked.
“All day, my boy.”
“OK, then,” Dave replied, already feeling the six hours in his hip. “Three o’clock tomorrow.”
“I look forward to meeting you, Doctor,” Dave said, calculating he’d have to hit the road before noon tomorrow—if he could get Cyndi’s permission to drive her car. Or sneak out on the sly again and steal it. He did not like either choice.
“Oh, and, Mr. Connors . . .”
“You won’t be the same after what I show you. That I promise.”
“If you say so.”
“Super. Then I’m off for Fleet Street.” And he hung up.
Dave knew nothing of Fleet Street, or astrophysics or Astroturf, for that matter. He was barely familiar with ancient alien theory or the bible, and he knew next to nothing about the Nephilim, the Rephaim or the Dark Rift. For now, they were just names, just words. And freaking weird ones, at that.
Later, he would pine for this moment, this ignorance . . . this bliss. Only then he would realize how truly innocent he had been.
Another thing he was ignorant of, during his chat with Dr. Dincke, was the pair of eyes watching him from across the street, via the night-vision binoculars. Both the Israeli Police and Mossad favored Alpha-Lens military-issue night binocs—and for good reason: they represented the latest iteration in night-vision gear, true Generation 5 technology, resulting in the brightest, clearest images possible.
They also cost $8,500 a pair. But they were worth every shekel: Sgt. Heim could see perfectly into Cyndi Malach’s country home, through the living room window. Whale Unit had spotted her during their stakeout of Connors’s apartment. Saw her park out front, go in, saw lights appear on the third floor, and watched her emerge again with a suitcase, a shaving kit and one moth-eaten, old Siamese. Then followed her home.
Heim lowered the binoculars and smiled. He was in there; they’d found their quarry, all right. And he had no idea they were closing in. Heim wanted to raid the place that night, but his Mossad friends begged off. They’d spotted some unusually sophisticated security devices around the perimeter—devices they’d rarely seen outside Mossad itself. No problem: they could take him the moment he left the house—and take him any way they wanted, dead or alive. Either way was fine with Heim. Then again . . .
. . . dead was always easier.
That night the old rebel, the outcast, banished forever from his synagogue, last master of the blasphemous Chaldean Kabbalah, finalized his plans for the deaths of three more people. Nothing gaudy; no need for attention. He’d only be gone a few hours with his companion, then back in his hotel room again, alone. and his mission in this accursed country would be finished. All in service to earth’s former gods, its true and rightful rulers, the Nephilim . . . the Betrayed . . . the Abandoned.
Everything he did was for Them. Even sabotaging the Oded Expedition to Mt. Sinai. True, the Kabbalist didn’t mind the surge in his bank account, but it made him slightly ill to think that everything—everything he did—was in service to the Nephilim.
Now, illumined by only the eight candles flickering from his menorah, the odd, pot-bellied figure raised his arms over his suitcase and began chanting in an ancient tongue, one older than Babylon, Assyria—even Sumer. One millions of years old before Man even rose from the desert sands, at Their command. A tongue not heard on Earth in over three millennia, save by certain practitioners of the old, olden rites. Rites that made Voodoo, Satanism—even Santeria, with all its blood fetishes—seem the veriest chanting of Sunday School children by comparison.
He opened the suitcase and gazed upon its contents: dried blood, dirt, semen and sand. He leaned over and then did something most unusual: he began spitting into the suitcase. A slightly nauseous odor arose from the sand, nothing more. He chanted a few more incantations, after which he took an olive branch and began stirring his spit into the sand, semen, blood and dirt, making a muddy glob in the center of the suitcase. And he smiled: yes.
Yes, it would rise again tonight.
And all hell would follow.
What Dave had assumed was a standard digital projector came on with an animated audio/video splash. This was not the doctor’s color slides or home movies, or even Death-By-Power-Point, but a full-blown, multi-media presentation. Fortunately, the projector’s special effects capabilities were limited, which was encouraging: otherwise, Dave would be suspicious of any giants or monsters presented onscreen.
Following a number of jump-cuts, fades and text, the film settled into a series of still-shots, which Dr. Galilei accompanied with his own narration. So . . . it was to be the doctor’s slide-show after all.
The projector paused on a grainy, black-and-white photo of a desert scene, with a number of Arab laborers standing around a huge trench in the foreground. Above the trench was an elaborate scaffolding, with ropes, pulleys and winches. Inside the trench was what appeared to be a dinosaur skeleton, except the arrangement of the bones was all wrong.
The size looked about right, but the layout was like no dinosaur he’d ever seen. As he studied the photo, Dave realized there was something hideously human about the skeleton, combined with a vague, yet terrible suggestion of the reptilian.
“The Grigori,” said Dr. Galilei. “Better known as ‘The Watchers.’”
“And what were they? Giant grave-diggers?”
At the word “giant,” Dr. Galilei’s hand twitched so violently, he knocked the projector sideways.
“Sorry,” he mumbled. He slid the projector back into position. “Many believe the Grigori, or Watchers, are the creatures referred to in Sumerian myth as the ‘Anunnaki,’ and in the bible as ‘the Fallen.’ Highly advanced beings who came here to survey, mine, and colonize earth.”
At the word “colonize,” a pair of photos came up, side by side. On the left was a tiny carving of what looked like a 1960s astronaut, complete with backpack and space helmet, climbing a stone pillar in the Natural History Museum of Tula, Mexico. The photo on the right was the infamous carving of the Mayan god-king Pakal on the lid of his sarcophagus, apparently operating controls from the cockpit of some interstellar craft. Both photos often appeared in books dealing with Ancient Astronauts, as proof of aliens on the earth in distant epochs.
“That’s the ‘Little Guy’ of Tula,” Galilei explained. “And, of course, the sarcophagus lid of King Pakal, the Mayan ruler of Palenque, Mexico. He was said to be nearly eight feet tall,” he added.
The next scene was no photograph or video still, but a painting any Sunday school student would recognize: David and Goliath.
“Speaking of giants, note the proportions here,” Dr. G continued. “See how huge Goliath is, by comparison?”
“Someone got a little carried away,” Dave said. “He’s three times David’s size.”
“Actually, the scale here is much more accurate than the usual rendering. Remember that David was only a boy of sixteen or so, while Goliath was a mature, bearded adult—and a descendent of the Anakim.”
“One of several tribes of giants native to Canaan, dating back to before the Flood.”
“What, as in Noah’s Ark?” Not this nonsense again . . .
“Correct. Now, from the biblical account—and other, more recent evidence which we’ll get to in a moment—we know that Goliath was “six cubits and a span” in height. At 20.4 inches to the Hebrew cubit, and about nine cubits to the span, that’s nearly eleven feet tall, not the seven or eight feet typically depicted.”
“So, what does this—”
“Goliath was one of the smaller members of his tribe. Genetic dilution, you see, from generations of mixed human ancestry. His pureblooded forebears were much larger.”
“Indeed. Originally, they stood well over twenty feet tall—triple our size.”
“Impressive,” Dave said. “If it were true . . .”
“‘There were giants in the earth in those days,’” the professor quoted, “‘and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.’”
Dave stared at the screen, trying not to laugh; it was the same bible verse Cyndi had quoted him. Instead, he tried to focus on the pain in his hip, but couldn’t help grinning—a scientist quoting the bible? Ludicrous.
“So, what’s up, Doc? You and Cyndi belong to the same church? You trying to convert me?”
“I do not attend church. Besides, this has less to do with religion than with—”
“Because she quoted the bible to me, too.”
“—than with archaeological fact,” Dr. Galilei finished.
“Archaeological fact, Mr. Connors. Not faith. I’m a scientist, not a priest.”
“So, you’re saying David and Goliath were real.”
“The bible, the Torah and the Koran all say so. Anytime you can get all three of those books to agree on anything, I’d say it’s a safe bet.”
“What about the Anakim?”
“Same thing,” said Dr. Galilei. “And they weren’t the only giants mentioned. The bible lists over half a dozen different tribes, all of them descendants of the Watchers.”
“So who were these Watchers, then? Cyndi said they were fallen angels.”
“They were the Fallen. The Abandoned.”
“Or the Fallen Ones, correct?” Dave said. “That’s what Cyndi called them.”
“Correct. Angelic beings that assumed human shape and came down to earth, or fell, in order to mate with human women. The result was . . .”
“Mutants,” Dave said. “Hybrid giants. Or so I’m told.”
“Exactly. Twelve fingers, twelve toes. Two rows of teeth, in some tribes. This genetic admixture gave them phenomenal size, legendary strength, and an insatiable hunger for human flesh.”
“You mean cannibals? As in all the old fairy tales and myths?”
Galilei nodded. “At the heart of every myth, you know, lies a kernel of truth. Same for religion.”
Again, Galilei advanced the film one frame, to another still shot. This one, however, was more recent and detailed. It was a photo of an Australian archaeologist kneeling beside a skull the size of a truck tire. The jawbone was as big as a man’s leg, while the teeth were larger than the Aussie’s fingers.
“Rephaim, discovered in northern Iraq, 2005.”
“One of the first, and most bloodthirsty, tribes of giants.”
“And these photos are for real? These are actual skeletons?”
“Without a doubt. Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many sites never before seen by Western eyes have been uncovered. And there’s more than skeletons over there.”
“What, you mean . . . ?”
“Living remnants. Descendants of the Neph—the Fallen—still, to this day,” Galilei said. “One was reported killed by U.S. servicemen in northern Iraq, in 2006. He was said to be over nine feet tall, with two rows of teeth on each jaw and six fingers on each hand.”
Dave reeled in his seat: it was a dead-on description of the intern he’d seen at the hospital the night of his accident. But what was the name Galilei had begun to say? Nef?
“You are kidding, right? I mean—”
“I only wish to God I were,” Galilei replied. “This is the truth as I heard it from a former student of mine, a medic embedded in the 354th Armored Cavalry, based in Kabul. He took the photo.”
“So, why tell me this stuff?” Dave asked. “What’s the significance?”
“Can’t you guess?” Dr. Galilei asked. “Why would so many of these sightings––UFOs, aliens, freaks––suddenly start increasing as we got closer to December 21st, along with the worsening interference with global communications? Coincidence?”
“Probably,” Dave replied, sounding uncertain even to himself. “But what’s all this have to do with the Commandments and the Roswell symbols?”
Dr. Galilei looked nonplussed. “Everything. I believe this link of yours points to something far more serious than aliens visiting earth over the millennia, or Jehovah God returning to Israel. Something infinitely darker and more evil.”
Dave shrugged. “Like what?”
“Like the return of the Fallen in force” said Dr. G. “To finish their feud with God and destroy His creation.”
“You mean . . . ”
“Yes,” Galilei said, nodding. “I mean they’re coming back to have it out with the being known as Jehovah, or Yahweh, and end it once and for all. And then . . .”
“They will turn on us.”
Galilei nodded. The room fell entirely silent.
“Yes,” he said at last. “They will feed.”
“However,” Galilei continued, turning from the screen, “I also believe the old legends of the ‘God Key’ may be true.”
“And what legends are those?” Dave asked, trying to keep the skepticism out of his voice.
“Namely, that clues as to the return of the Fallen are hidden in a linked chain of ruins in the Holy Land, one leading to the next. Once deciphered, they might give us a way to defeat them—or at least give us the proof we need.”
“Proof?” Dave said. “For who? Dr. Phil? Oprah?”
“For Mankind,” Dr. Galilei replied. “To open the eyes of the world at last. To bring all the races and nations of earth together before it’s too late, before the Neph—er, time runs out. To unite us all as one people: Earthers.”
An embarrassing pause ensued. Dave could have kicked himself. He nodded at the screen and said: “Sorry, Doc, I meant no disrespect.”
“Oh, I quite understand. It’s a bit much to swallow.”
“Exactly. I mean, if any of this is true, isn’t someone going after the story?”
“Not anyone in his right mind,” Dr. G replied. “Not since Alexander the Great tried, just before his death. It was his only failure, you know,” the Doc added. “Besides, there are other, much more recent, cases to investigate. Encounters with the advance scouts, so to speak.”
“Recent encounters? In the Holy Land?”
“In the Holy Land.”
“Like—where, for instance?”
“Take the sightings of 2009, in the Golan Heights, near the Gilgal Rephaim. Dozens of eyewitnesses reported odd, cigar-shaped objects in the sky—similar to sightings in this country, I might add, at the turn of the last century, and in the Glasser woodcutting.”
“I’m sorry, Gilgal . . . ?”
Galilei smiled. “Gil-gal Reph-a-im. An ancient, circular stone edifice, built by those beings we discussed earlier. Best not to say their name. You’ve no idea . . . Anyway, Gilgal is the Stonehenge of the Middle East. Buried somewhere inside it, supposedly, is a clue as to who and what came here—and what’s coming back for us.”
“And there’ve been UFO sightings there recently?” Dave asked.
“Oh, yes. Or take the temple ruins at Baalbek, in Lebanon. They’ve—”
“—Whoa, now there’s one I actually know about, from reading Sitchin. In the Bekka Valley, Lebanon. Supposedly built before the Flood, according to ancient Akkadian sources.”
“Correct,” Dr. G agreed. “But built by whom?”
A postcard photo of the Temple of Jupiter at Baalbek came onscreen. It was a three-quarter shot of the northwestern wall, showing the six remaining Roman columns and the three gigantic stone slabs at its base. Dave knew where the good doctor was heading: Baalbek’s famed “Trilithon”—the three most massive objects ever quarried and used as building blocks—over 6,000 years ago. Now Dr. G wanted to know who had put them there.
“Giants,” Dave answered. “Or so local legends have it.”
“Precisely. Of the same species that built Gilgal Rephaim. Here, too, is another clue as to who and what the Fallen were—an astronomical clue, at that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Many of these sites are astronomically aligned to certain stars and constellations. Finding the correct ones, according to their alignment, could help you solve the world’s oldest mystery.”
“By tracing their aeronautical approach and landing vectors. If you focus on those sites that line up with Draco and their first landing zone at Mt. Hermon, you could pinpoint exactly where these beings came and went, and what clues they left behind. Clues as to their identity, and their eventual return. Again, according to legend.”
“Legends . . . myths,” Dave said, sighing. “But no proof.”
“On the contrary, the proof is there,” Galilei stated. “It’s been hidden in the Holy Land for untold thousands of years. And, more recently, in some of the finest portraits, sculptures and frescoes of the Renaissance. These are the places and things you must see, David. These hide both the proof and the clues to the Grand Puzzle: who or what is God, and when is He, She or It coming back for us? Or will the Fallen prevail? This is what you must find and publish, while you still can.”
“Why do you keep saying ‘While you still can,’ and ‘Before time runs out?’”
Galilei’s gaze darted about the room. Then he nodded and said, “You know about the Great Alignment of earth and sun with the center of the galaxy, on December 21st?”
“Sure, everyone does. Occurs once every 26,000 years, only this time it marks the end of both the Mayan and Aztec Calendars, supposedly meaning the end of the world.”
“Heh, if only,” Galilei replied. “I fear much more will happen first. You see, the Maya believed something would come from that Rift. They believed it would be the return of their god, Kukulkan or Quetzalcoatl.” He glanced up at Dave again, his heavy brows crashing together like a freight train collision. “No less a prophet than Nostradamus himself predicted it.”
“Seriously? You’re going to drag Nostradumbass into this, too?”
“Don’t mock what you don’t understand, young man,” Galilei fired back. “Don’t you know? Haven’t you read? Quetzalcoatl’s return? The great, feathered serpent, who stretches from the opening of Genesis to the very ends of the Dark Rift? He and his kind are what will happen, Mr. Connors. The Reptilians, the Grigori, first of the Watchers. Would to God it were merely the end of the world.”
“So it all comes back to the Fallen?”
Again, Galilei’s gaze darted about the room, as if the creatures themselves were about to storm his office “Please, it’s best not to mention them,” he said, at last. “They aren’t entirely unaware of what we do or say, you know.”
“They can do things,” Dr. Galilei added, a wild look in his eye. “To our flesh. Things no damned Renaissance Man ever put to canvas, I guarantee you that, boy.”
“OK, Doc, I guess that about wraps this up,” Dave said, trying to sound polite. “It’s been great talking with you, but . . .” then he paused and looked more closely at the professor. “You don’t sound real hopeful about our chances.”
“I’m not,” Galilei said. “However, there is one man I know who’s more sanguine. He’s an academic like me, but far more up to speed on biblical trace evidence.”
“Really? Would you mind if I called him?” (Maybe he’s not so freaked out . . .)
“You should. Alien beings in the bible are his specialty. He’s not local, though; he teaches at Baltimore University, in Maryland. This isn’t exactly a topic one shares with one’s peers on campus. Not if one wishes to retain tenure.”
“No, I suppose one doesn’t.”
“Here’s his card,” Galilei said, fishing one from his desk. “Dr. Richard Dincke, Astronomical Sciences, University of Baltimore. There’s his number.”
“Thanks, Doc,” Dave said as he pocketed the card. He thought he’d reached the end of his search for information here, with Dr. G. Apparently not. Now there was a Dr. D. He hoped Dincke was the goods; his hip wouldn’t take much more driving and gimping.
“So, you really think they’re coming back? These Reptilians?”
“Oh, yes. And in a way no bible-thumper can possibly imagine,” Galilei replied. “They’ll think it’s the Rapture, you see. Or the Second Coming. But it’ll be the greatest deception of all time: Our ‘Space-Brothers’ Return,’ you see. But it’ll be a Bar-B-Q, son. Mass extinction.”
“Uh huh. Well, I—”
“Do you think it’s mere coincidence that descriptions of the alien ‘grays’ and the reptilian Grigori are so similar? Or that their behavior when in contact with humans is so characteristically demonic? Read the accounts, son. Alien abduction? Demonic possession? They’re one and the same! The Neph—”
Just then, Dave thought he heard a muffled *thump* from the rear of the classroom.
A book falling over, probably. Dr. G heard it, too: his eyes registered stark, staring terror, but he was too ramped up now to stop for any soft, uncertain noises.
“Remember Genesis, chapter six?” he continued, sounding slightly hysterical. “What these beings did with human women? ‘They took them wives of all which they chose?’ Took, mind you. Abducted. Beginning to sink in yet?”
“Look, I didn’t mean to—”
“Don’t believe the biblical account?” Galilei continued, his voice rising higher, as if in challenge. “Fine! How about Enoch? He tells how the Fallen planned it! Once they’d decided to come to earth and take human females, they swore an oath by ‘mutual imprecations’ to go and ‘do this thing,’ i.e., rape human females. They bound themselves, you see, by oaths—that’s how Mount Hermon got its name! It means ‘bound by oaths.’”
“You know, Doc,” Dave said, “next time we get together for one of these little chin-wags, try cutting the Prozacs in half, OK?”
But Dr. Galilei plowed on, like a freight train careening out of control:
“And just who was that serpent in the Garden of Eden? Or Quetzalcoatl? Hmn? Or Leviathan? Don’t you see? Reptilians? Grays? Grigori? Neph—er—whatevers? They’re all the same.”
Dave thought he heard another thumping sound, following by a louder bumping noise, somewhere in the classroom. They were distinct, physical sounds, nothing supernatural or “paranormal.” Yet, Dr. Galilei’s eyes took on a fanatic glare, as if he had to finish what he’d begun—now, before he could be silenced.
“Nostradamus himself foretold these days, when he spoke of ‘strange portents’ in the skies, men fighting for control of the clouds, and the return of ‘those who were banished,’ the very same Neph—things, we were discussing.”
“There you go again—‘Neph.’ What’s a ‘Neph?’”
“Nothing, nothing,” Dr. G said, smiling. “Slip of the tongue. Or take the—”
“Were you about to say Nephilim?” Dave asked. “The return of the Nephilim?” he pressed. “That’s what this is all about? So what are they going to do, these Neph—”
“Please don’t—heh, heh—don’t keep saying that name.” The doctor glanced at the door, then the projector. “You’ve no idea . . .”
But Dr. Galilei appeared not to have heard him, too busy glancing around the room, toward the door, the windows—even though the blinds were down—then back to the door. He turned off the projector, stumbled to the light switch and turned on the overheads again.
“Doc, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, nothing. Just . . . heh heh, just realized I’m running over. I’ve a . . . yes, a class to miss—I mean—a class I can’t miss. Yes.”
“Look, Dr. Galilei, I apologize if I’ve said anything to—”
“Oh, no, no, no. Think nothing of it. I actually—hah hah—got a laugh out of your ‘kumbaya’ remark earlier. Quite droll, yes. Quite . . .” His eyes were darting in every direction as he shut off his computer, tossed his notebook and folder into a desk drawer and locked it—all in about 2.4 seconds.
“Doctor, I don’t—” Dave tried, but it was useless.
“Sorry, must go! Must run! Ha! Yes, run . . .” The doctor cackled, as if he’d just uttered a private—and very sick—joke. “Well, nice meeting you, Mr . . . eh, Dave, and please feel free to call on me anytime. But I must. Yes, be going.”
He practically galloped to the door with his briefcase, his lab coat flying. Dave had to gather up his drawing of the Ten Commandments in record time just to keep up with him.
And, like that, they were outside. Dr. Galilei waved distractedly at him, gave a strangled “farewell,” and then stumbled down the hill in the general direction of the administrative buildings, leaving David to gape after him.
The brilliant autumn sunshine, a beautiful, blazing bronze only moments ago, now seemed oddly dimmed, somehow, as if a great shadow had fallen over the earth. The wind kicked up and a slight, drizzling rain began to patter about him. Yet, as Dave walked away from the building, still clutching his 5×7 card, he felt sure of one thing:
That the Nephilim were the crux of the matter. The reason Oded had been so evasive with him. The reason three members of the expedition had been murdered, the reason he had been run down by a car, the reason Sgt. Lacy had died. The reason he was feeling watched, being followed . . . growing paranoid.
One thing he didn’t know was that a black sports sedan had just sped away from its place of vigil only moments earlier. If Dave hadn’t indulged Galilei’s projector show, he would have run right into Sgt. Heim and Friends.
As it was, they’d finally despaired of catching him here: too much security. And too much time out in the open; they’d be made before long—by campus security, if no one else. There would be uncomfortable questions, possibly even a call to Jerusalem—sparking the wrath of Inspector Schriever. And that would not do. No, better to brace Connors on his way to work in the morning. It was much simpler, much more discreet and far more likely to succeed.
But not if M-12 could help it.
They were still there, still watching David Connors and the lately departed Israelis. They knew the same: this was far too public. And, despite the government plates, they couldn’t take him out here; campus police, security, cameras, etc. They’d have to pick their time more wisely, as well. Like the Israelis, they slipped away in their dark sports car, not defeated exactly, merely put off for the moment. There would be another time. Another place.
Dave withdrew his cell phone with his left hand, while balancing himself on the cane with his right. Suddenly, all the pain and throbbing in his head, back, hip and thigh were gone. All he could see or think of were the three photos he’d taken in Galilei’s office a few minutes earlier.
At first, he didn’t see anything—the crappy little cell phone had failed yet again. His heart skipped a beat as he punched it up again. And then, in the next beat, there it was: the sketch came through in bold relief. It was an excellent pencil rendering of the Roswell symbols. In perfect definition.
When he saw the symbols onscreen, and compared them with his lone remaining photo of the Commandments inscriptions, a rush of energy—pure adrenaline—raced up his spine, his neck and into his scalp. Finally, he knew. Even though all he had were photos and sketches, he knew.
The clouds above let loose at last, and the storm broke over him in all its fury as he stuffed everything back into his pockets. And, as he hobbled to the cabstand, he couldn’t tell the rain from his tears as both poured down his face.
Six thousand miles away, the fat little wizard sat hunched over a telephone.
“What do you mean, he’s still alive?” the Kabbalist barked. “You imbeciles . . .”
He was on the old, long-distance trunk line, which had lain across the floor of the Atlantic for over a century. Although it was antiquated “brown wire,” not fiber-optic, it was now the most reliable means of long-distance communication on earth, thanks to the solar storms.
“He is gravely injured,” came the American voice, with its broad, flat delivery. Probably from Kansas or Oklahoma, the Kabbalist thought; a hayseed; a hick.
“And the detective?” he demanded.
“In pieces,” came the reply.
“Good,” the Kabbalist said. “Then you’ve not been a complete waste.”
The M-12 colonel, Stansfield, didn’t rise to the bait, instead waiting for the old bastard to finish. Which he did, but in a way Col. Stansfield did not care for. Not one bit.
“You will kill Connors within the week,” said the old wizard. “Before the Israelis take him. Otherwise . . . your flesh will run like water.”
The M-12 agent waited for more, but heard only a click as the Kabbalist hung up on the other end, 6,200 miles away. It was nowhere near far enough. But the muscular, crew-cut military man had his marching orders, and he would obey.
He would kill David Connors within the week. Everything depended on it. He certainly didn’t want to test the Kabbalist’s resolve, especially when it came to Those others. They—those Things—could, and would, make his flesh to run like water; he’d seen it happen. In the desert, near Groom Lake, NV. Col. Stansfield had no wish to join in such festivities.
He and his driver, along with their nameless, shadowy go-between, would have another nondescript, black sports car within the hour.
And the hunt for Connors would resume.
Just then, Dr. Ross Galilei was resuming his comparison of David’s Commandments photo with his own sketch of the Roswell symbols. His dark, beady eyes darted back and forth like a hawk’s, as he inspected them one last time.
“Thirty-five hundred years apart, and yet they’re nearly identical,” Dr. Galilei said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in all my years of study,” he added. “You do realize you’re sitting on a time bomb, don’t you?”
“How so?” David asked.
“This link you’ve found will upset a lot of very powerful people. People you’ve never heard of—or even dreamed existed—in the government, the Church, the media . . . among other entities.”
“That’s some time bomb.”
“And when it goes off, there’s no telling what may happen to you. Your life could be in danger. You do realize that, of course?”
“I dunno, Doc. I mean, there’ve only been a few million UFO sightings since Roswell. And all kinds of people have written books claiming God was an alien or an aardvark, or whatever. What makes me so special?”
“None of those other authors ever supplied such tangible proof.” Dr. Galilei said. “Not even von Däniken.” He nodded at David’s Commandments photo. “This shows a real, physical link between the God of the Old Testament and an extraterrestrial origin.”
Dave smiled. The good doctor might be right, after all: he couldn’t recall ever hearing about such physical evidence before. A shame that only one of the two pieces of evidence was an actual photograph. True, any photo could be altered; only he knew for certain it was real.
“So, what should I do?” he asked. “Hide it? Destroy it? Drop the story altogether?”
Dr. Galilei peered at him from beneath his beetling brows before replying.
“In a word, yes. I would hide your photograph in the cellar, take it out at night and gloat over it under the full moon. And never tell another soul.”
Dave frowned. “In that case, would you mind if I took a photo of your sketch?”
“Well, I don’t know . . .” the doctor began. “I’m not sure I––”
“I won’t publish it,” Dave said. “After all, it’s not the actual debris, just a sketch. Still, I’d sure like to have a print. You know, for when I gloat over it at night.”
“Well . . .” said Dr. Galilei, “I suppose so. If it’s for your own viewing.”
Dave took his cell phone and snapped three photos of the sketch from three different angles. The only expression on his face was one of relief, not triumph.
“Thanks, Doctor,” he said. “I’ll stand by my word; I won’t publish this—even though it goes against everything I’ve ever believed as a journalist.”
“And what is that, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“To report the story—the truth—and let the chips fall . . . wherever.”
“And what if they fall on your head?” Doctor Galilei asked.
“My editor says I have a thick skull.” He nodded at his drawing. “Seriously, though, it would be one helluva story. If I could replace my Roswell photos, I’d have a slam dunk. No evidence like it on earth, as you said.”
“Well . . . I wouldn’t go that far.”
Now it was Dave’s turn to look confused. “But, you just said . . .”
“I said I’ve never seen anything like it before, in terms of physical trace evidence. However, I believe there may be more substantiation like this—proof of ancient aliens, gods and monsters in the remote past. And what they did here with humans.”
“Where?” Dave asked. “Area 51? Roswell? Wright-Patterson?”
One more time, the professor peered at Dave from beneath his dark, ledge-like brows, as if uncertain whether to continue at all. At last he shook his head and said: “In the bible, David. The Word of God . . .
“. . . It’s full of UFOs.”
At first, Dave wasn’t sure he’d heard right. He almost did the Swimmer’s Shake, except that tilting his head caused a tidal wave of dizziness.
Dr. Galilei held out both hands to steady him. “Are you all right?”
“Yeah, sure,” David replied. “For a second there, I thought you said ‘The bible.’”
“The bible contains accounts of UFOs.”
“Absolutely. It’s full of UFO encounters, alien beings—even alien abductions, like Enoch and Elijah, for instance. The Scriptures are loaded with them.”
“And you’re saying the evidence is still there? In the Holy Land?”
“I’m sure of it,” said Galilei. “But UFOs and ancient aliens are only the surface story. The full tale—the forgotten saga—is what’s so devastating. Because it’s all true.”
“What’s all true?” Dave asked. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the origin of human life on earth. I’m talking about who and what really created us, and when. And about what’s coming back for us, at the end.”
“So, this isn’t just about UFOs in the bible. Or Roswell and the Commandments.”
“Oh, it’s much more. But most of us—and I mean scientists, now—haven’t a clue. The records are lost to time and the ages. You see, Mankind is a race with amnesia. We’ve forgotten more about our origins, past civilizations, wars, glories and gods than you can possibly imagine.”
“Such as our, shall we say, intimate relation to the beings that have been visiting earth since Man was a monkey. And the skills, science, art and technology they gave us. We once knew who and what these beings were, but we’ve long since forgotten. All that remains are legends . . . myths . . . religions.”
“Yet, they were here,” Dave said.
“And they’re due to return. En masse. The evidence is irrefutable. The God of the ancient Hebrews is no myth. Neither is Quetzalcoatl, the Mayan serpent god. Same for the pantheon of deities, devils, angels and demons who’ve been visiting this planet over the millennia. The Sumerians called them ‘Anunnaki;’ the Hebrews, ‘Elohim;’ the Greeks, ‘Titans’ and ‘Olympians.’ Whatever the names, whatever the culture, the stories are always the same: superior beings came down from the heavens, created man, taught him everything—mining, mineralogy, astronomy, agriculture—for man to work for them. Indeed, the Hebrew word for ‘worship’ comes from an older word meaning ‘to work for.’ Man worshipped the gods—he worked for them. Then they left, promising to return.”
“OK. So, they came here, played ‘God,’ left us this mess and just . . . flew away?”
“Oh, no, they remained for thousands of years,” Galilei said. “Perhaps too long.”
“Many world myths claim that, soon after creating Man, the gods grew bored and began performing certain . . . other experiments.”
“What does that mean, ‘other experiments?’”
Galilei rolled the word in his mouth as if it were especially tasty: “Transgenics.”
“You mean, humans and—”
“Quite,” Galilei said. “H.G. Wells’ ‘The Island of Dr. Moreau’ is a delicious allegory, you know. Far more science than fiction.”
“You’re saying the gods bred ‘manimals?’ For what . . . fun? Sport?”
“Of course. What do you suppose the Manticore was? Or the Sphinx? Or Pan? What price Anubis? Why would so many ancient cultures create statues, reliefs and paintings of such creatures alongside their human kings, unless they’d actually seen them at some point? And . . . who knows? Perhaps some remain? After all, what better explanation for Bigfoot? Or the Yeti? Werewolves? Mothman?”
“If any of this is true, how the hell could we have forgotten it all?”
Dr. Galilei shrugged. “Wars, natural disasters, religions, time. All potent erasers. Yet, all the while, just beneath the surface of the slate, the faintest traces of the olden truths lay like a palimpsest—traces we today call ‘out of place artifacts.’” Galilei paused to stroke his massive eyebrows, as if that was where he kept his secrets. “And now this.”
“This link you’ve uncovered, between the Ten Commandments and the Roswell symbols. Marvelous, true, but it’s only the popcorn. Care to see the whole movie?”
Dave thought about it for a moment. He thought about Cyndi and their tour of the museum Monday night. He thought about the hit-and-run later that night, and the dead Detective Lacy. And the three corpses in Israel . . . and who, or what, was hunting them.
“I’m not sure I do,” Dave admitted.
“And I’m not sure I blame you,” said Galilei. “But if you’re serious about getting to the bottom of this, then you should be warned.”
“‘Warned?’ A bit melodramatic, don’t you think?”
“Then let’s say ‘briefed.’ Either way, you should know as much as you can before you go back there. To the Holy Land.”
David rolled his eyes. “Why does everyone seem to think I have to go back to Israel?”
“Because that’s where all the puzzle pieces are. This isn’t something you can solve in an armchair, with a book and some maps, young man. This is something you’ll have to see with your own eyes, dig with your own hands, and that right soon. You’ll have to be an archaeologist and a sleuth at the same time—along with a dose of the exorcist . . .”
Dr. Galilei smiled and walked around the side of his desk to a blackboard hung on the back wall. He reached up, grabbed a string and pulled down a silver projection screen. As he reached toward the light switch, he glanced at David.
“May I?” he asked.
Dave sighed. How could he say no? The doc was obviously dying to show him his home movies or slides or whatever. Again, probably Death-By-PowerPoint . . .
“Sure, go ahead,” Dave said.
Dr. G. killed the overheads. Dave helped him lower the blinds on all three of the huge windows. And, like that, the sun-drenched office was dark as twilight.
“This won’t take long.” The good doctor was already in the zone, fiddling with the projector, clicking the mouse and talking simultaneously. “Little display I’ve prepared for you,” he added, glancing over one shoulder at the door.
“Well, thanks, Doc . . . I’m honored,” Dave said.
“You might not think so later.”
Dr. G. took another glance at the door, then at one of the windows.
“What I’m about to show you cannot leave this room, agreed?”
“Agreed, but . . . what’s the big mystery, Doc? You about to divulge national defense secrets or something?”
“If only. No, this is . . . this is much worse than national defense, my God in . . . ” his voice trailed off into unintelligible mumbling.
Dave decided not to ask any more questions. Galilei obviously had an agenda, including a program prepared just for him. Best to just let him get on with it. If nothing else, he’d be getting a PhD-level presentation gratis, so . . . what the hell.
As Dave took a seat in Galilei’s office, lights off and projector on, the three men in the black sedan outside grew restless. Moshe and Aaron, the Mossad agents, wanted to go in, find the American and Taser him into submission. Then pop him into the car, race to the airport and—zip—back to Jerusalem.
But Sgt. Heim knew better, which secretly pleased him: that he was more informed, and thus more circumspect, than even the vaunted Mossad? He smiled to himself, gloating.
“We can’t go in and make a scene. You know why.”
“No, why,” Moshe, the tougher-looking one, demanded. It was not a question.
“Because we cannot risk notice by American authorities—of any level. Not even campus security,” Heim added. “So, we will wait.”
“I’m sick of waiting. It’s time to—”
“It’s time to remember who is in charge of this unit,” Heim interrupted him. “And that is not you, is it, Captain?”
“Is it?” Heim repeated.
“No, it is not me,” Moshe growled. “But a time is coming, Sergeant, when we will all be called to account—and not by Chief Inspectors or politicians. But by the Fallen. By Those who were here before.”
“Keep your lunatic beliefs to yourself,” Heim growled. “Angels and demons and all that Kabbalah rubbish. Save it for temple, Moshe, I’ve no time for it here.”
“More’s the pity,” Moshe muttered.
“And save your pity for Mr. Connors,” Heim said.
The two Mossad agents gazed at each other, then glanced out their respective windows. Although the other one, Aaron, did not hold with the ancient mysteries of the Kabbalah, he sympathized with his Mossad brother. Moshe was a full captain in the service. Yet, for this mission, the police Sergeant outranked them both. And for what? All this sitting and waiting like a clutch of hens. Galling as it was, they had no choice: they would wait.
And, waiting thus, they failed to notice the other black sports car creeping up the street behind them. The one with the crumpled front fender.
The word “wait,” however, was not in the Kabbalist’s lexicon.
The time for action—wet, dripping, gushing action—was near. Soon, it would be time to raise his deformed friend once more and go forth to do the Brotherhood’s business. The holy Brotherhood, whose worship of, and sacrifice for, the bene ha-Elohim stretched back over 2,700 years, to the shores of mystery Babylon, the Tower, to Nimrod and his blood-drunk, reptilian mother, sister and queen, Semiramus, called Ashtarte (from which the word “Easter” derived). Now, it was time.
Time as counted by the Brotherhood . . . the Fallen . . . the Betrayed. Not only the Maya, but also the Babylonians, Egyptians, Celts and the Aztecs—all looked to this time, prophesied its coming and the end of the old world. The end, above all, of the interloper, HWHY, “God” of Israel. He too would pay, and dearly. The thought of so much history, so much time, blood, suffering and toil in secret—all for the sake of Their return, was humbling. Now, at last, it was nigh.
Even as these long-familiar thoughts and musings ran like holy, golden rivulets through his mind, the Chief Rabbi of the Order, the Kabbalist, was already preparing for the final assassinations—including that of David Connors, last of the eyewitnesses.
He, like all the others, would be dead before long, and the assassin’s usefulness at an end. A shame about that, the Kabbalist thought. He had grown attached to this assassin, this servant of the Fallen. But there would be others, and this one must return to his rest, eventually.
But not, the Kabbalist knew, before Dave Connors had been sent to his.
He glanced at his Israeli wristwatch, a Cabala he’d received fifty years ago from a grateful Prime Minster Ben-Gurion, for similar services rendered. It read 11:20 a.m., Eastern Standard Time. Less than 24 hours now, until it was done—one final victim, one last meal for his friend, yes.
And the American would know no more.
PART TWO: A Race With Amnesia
“Mankind is a race with amnesia
Clinging to a planet pocked by
Long-forgotten horrors…recalled only
In our most ancient myths and legends…
As if nothing more than dreams.
But dreams can as well be nightmares,
And amnesia is often caused by trauma.”
— Avis Schumacher
The Past is Not Passed
Dateline: Wednesday, 5 December, 2012
Outside Falls Church, VA
So, instead, he called Yellow Cab.
Twenty minutes later, slightly wobbly and leaning on a cane the hospital had given him, he climbed into a cab and was on his way at last. He was going to see a sketch of the Roswell symbols and compare his lone Commandments photo with them, thanks to Ross Galilei, Ph.D., Professor of Astrophysics at George Washington University, and specialist in physical trace evidence (of the little green man variety).
Dave went over his notes, refined his questions, and within minutes they were entering the outskirts of Alexandria. He thought about running by his apartment, for clothes, cat food, and so forth, but . . . no. Cyndi had warned against going anywhere near his usual haunts. Besides, he was in no condition to climb three flights of stairs.
So, it was on to Washington University, and his interview with Dr. Galilei.
And not once did he notice the little black sedan, two cars behind him.
Sgt. Heim and his men followed the cab as it left the Malach woman’s house. They’d been watching the residence since following her home from Connors’s apartment the previous night. This really was a no-brainer, Heim thought. Having the Mossad along was utterly unnecessary, as he’d known it would be. He could handle this; it was child’s play. The two Mossad agents were nothing but baggage. Until now.
Because, now, they would take Connors . . . the moment that cab stopped. They would have to be careful of traffic cops, security officers, and the like: they hadn’t come all this way to blow it at the last moment. They’d come for only one purpose—to capture or kill David Connors. And they would.
They would have him today, one way or another—dead, alive or some other condition in between.
The cab arrived at GWU’s grad school, on Ballenger Ave., about twenty minutes later. The campus was only half a mile from David’s apartment—an eight-minute stroll, at most. But there would be no strolling for Dave Connors . . . not from his apartment, anyway; it was permanently off-limits.
Fortunately for David’s hip and thigh, traffic was light that morning, and for good reason: autumn had finally given way to winter, and the weather had gone all to hell. Mother Nature was serving notice that the little joke about “Indian Summer” was over, and the real nastiness was about to begin.
As the cab approached the visitor parking garage, Dave was dismayed to find the entire campus bristling with security: squads of armed guards, city police, and other uniformed personnel were swaggering all over the grounds—as if patrolling a top-secret government installation. Some were even wearing brown shirts. Over a decade after 9/11 and the aftershocks were, if anything, increasing.
But if Dave was dismayed, the passengers in the black sedan were nonplussed: Heim and Co., already blocked from action at the Malach woman’s house, were to be stymied here, as well. Because they were armed to the eyebrows, they couldn’t risk scrutiny by even campus security, let alone uniformed police. They had no choice, then, but to drive past the garage and park on the street. And wait.
And even though the display of campus Gestapo irked the hell out of Dave, he owed his life to it, just then. He would remain unaware of this until after his meeting with Dr. Galilei, when “Life-in-the-Big-City,” as he called it, would throw him a little curve.
He paid the cabbie, then gimp-walked on his cane across campus to the Science building. At least the rain had ceased, and the sun was actually beginning to peak through the clouds—albeit sullenly, as if it had simply grown tired of playing hide-and-go-screw-yourself.
Dave’s path took him up a gradual slope that wound its way beneath a thickening grove of elms, oaks and maples. The autumn leaves were brilliant, and as the sun shot through the clouds in all its glory at last, Dave saw a golden beam shine through the trees, as if lighting his way.
The hilltop came into view, crowned by the science and engineering building. David entered it and saw a bald man in his forties, wearing a white lab coat, walking toward him. He had dark eyes set beneath a thick, beetling brow. He glanced first at the cane, then at his visitor.
“Mr. Connors?” he asked.
“Guilty,” Dave said, extending his right hand. “Please, call me Dave.”
The professor shook his hand and smiled in return. “Ross Galilei. I was led to understand you wouldn’t make it today. Our mutual friend, Cyndi, phoned and told me you’d got the worst of it in a tangle with a car, is that right, Mr. Connors?”
“More or less. But I’m good to go, Doctor. And, please, just call me Dave.”
“Sorry. Call me Ross, or Doctor, if you prefer. Anything but Galileo; it makes me feel like a star. Get it?”
Dave smiled. What’s this? Geek humor?
“Are you all right to walk?” asked Dr. G.
“Well, my break-dancing career’s over, but I guess I can still walk, yes.”
Galilei smiled. “Good. Then follow me, please.”
Dr. G led him toward a hallway on the left. Dave gimped along behind him to a large, wood-paneled door, which Galilei unlocked with a card key (security being a byword on campus). When they stepped inside, Dave couldn’t help feeling awed and dwarfed by the sheer size of the office.
It was gargantuan, bigger than any classroom, and illuminated by three tall, rectangular windows—the old-fashioned kind, with hand cranks. The view was stunning.
The hilltop presided over the entire campus from here, the trees, the quad, the main administrative buildings—even Duke Avenue, crowded with its fraternity and sorority houses, restaurants and coffee shops. Dave could follow the avenue all the way along its course into the heart of Old Town.
“Doc, you must have kissed some serious posteriors to get this view,” he said.
Dr. Galilei seemed taken aback by this, but managed a slight smile.
“Eh, yes, well,” he began, “I understand you’ve some interest in my work on trace evidence analysis.” He nodded at a projector aimed at the back wall.
Great. Dr. G had a presentation all ready to go for him. No doubt a dose of “Death-By-PowerPoint.”
“Later, perhaps,” Dave said. “What I’d really like to see is your sketch of the Roswell debris.”
Dr. G arched an eyebrow. “You certainly don’t mince words.”
“My word-mincer’s broken, Doc,” Dave said. “Besides, you’re a busy man.”
Galilei gave the projector a rueful glance, then turned toward his desk.
From a central drawer, he withdrew a thin manila envelope. Inside it was an old-fashioned, spiral notebook. The covers were bent and wrinkled, and all the pages appeared yellow with age, yet the edges were still sharp and crisp.
Galilei lay it on his desk with reverence, as if it were a treasure map. He opened it halfway, removed two pieces of onion-skin paper and revealed the sketch at last: the Roswell debris.
It was a surprisingly good pencil drawing of what appeared to be part of a kite, with a balsa wood frame and a light, silvery skin (indicated by pencil shadowing and the word “silver.”) Dr. Galilei had even included the torn and ragged edges of the debris, just as David remembered them. Then, along one side of the frame, on some sort of I-beam, were the symbols. Dave whistled and nodded.
“Disco,” he whispered.
“I drew this in July of 1987,” the doctor said, “during a field study I conducted in Roswell that summer. Fortieth anniversary, that sort of thing. I met the woman who owned the debris, a Rosalind Something. She let me sketch it in her kitchen.”
“Rosalind Brazille,” Dave said. “I met her, too, five years ago. Neat lady.”
“Yes,” Dr. Galilei replied. “How is she these days? It’s been ages.”
“Can’t tell you. She . . . disappeared.”
“Oh,” said Galilei. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“You’re tellin’ me.”
“In any event,” Galilei continued, “I read the article you wrote at the time, for World News Weekly,” he added. “Good piece, really. Objective, informative—almost scientific.”
“Well, thanks . . . I think.”
“As you can see from the sketch, I’m no artist. My primary aim was to capture the symbols on the debris as closely as possible, with little concern for size, proportion, or other aesthetics.”
Dave thought it looked pretty good to him. The symbols, so achingly familiar, stared back at him from the paper like a spurned lover. You lost me once, genius, don’t lose me again . . .
“May I?” Dave asked.
“Of course. But please be careful; it’s only in pencil. Easy to smudge, even now.”
Dave picked up the notebook, careful not to touch the 25-year-old drawing. It showed the debris just as he remembered it: a small, angular piece of some impossible plastic-liquid-metal, the I-beam inscribed with purple, pictographic symbols—a cross between computer machine language, Egyptian hieroglyphs and primitive cuneiforms.
“As I said, I’m no artist,” Galilei offered. “Just a feeble scientist doing his best.”
“Well, your best is pretty darn good, from what I can see,” Dave said.
“Thank you. Our friend Cyndi said you had some . . . similar photos?”
“Had being the operant verb, Doc. My Roswell shots are all missing. But I do have one similar photograph, taken recently.”
Galilei blinked, confused. “Rendlesham Forest, 1980?”
Dave withdrew a single 5×7 photograph from his jacket pocket and placed it on the desk next to the notebook. It was a plain, black-and-white photo of what looked like chunks of hand-carved stone tablets, covered in strange pictographic symbols. Galilei blinked.
“The . . . Ten Commandments?”
“Give that man a ceegar,” Dave said.
“I don’t smoke,” the professor said. “But I may start today. This is incredible.” He held the lone surviving photo of the Commandments next to his sketch and compared the images. At a glance he could see that many of the symbols were indeed the same. “Simply incredible,” he repeated.
“No artist here, either,” Dave said. “Just a feeble journalist doing his best.”
“And I’d say that was ‘pretty darn good,’ too.”
“So,” Dave said. “What do you make of it?”
The professor paused a moment, glanced down at his sketch and David’s enlarged photograph, then looked up again. “I don’t know what to make of it. Save the obvious.”
Galilei shrugged. “That the God of the ancient Hebrews was an extraterrestrial. Of the same species that crash-landed outside Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947.”
* * *
Dave wouldn’t hear about the detective’s death until the following day, by which time he would have other, more urgent concerns—namely, his head injury. The full extent of the damage was only now beginning to reveal itself.
It started with a series of dreams—extremely vivid dreams—of the silhouette he’d seen outside the museum. Now, here it was again: standing at the mouth of the recovery room hallway, watching him. No features or details of any kind, only a nacreous, pearlescent outline, like the absence of matter; a blank; a hole. The same one he’d seen watching them from Fayette Alley, just before the . . .
. . . then it was gone, as abruptly as it had appeared.
That was when the intern returned.
The giant, who’d been grinning at him from the hall earlier, was now leaning into the doorway of the recovery room, and—this time—leering at him.
Dave didn’t know whether to leer back at him, say something, or prepare to defend himself—but with a concussion? Against a Goliath? Not likely. He’d have to find a weapon of some kind, try to disable or at least stun the guy before he—
—crossed the room in two long strides, wrapped his gigantic, six-fingered hands around Dave’s throat and began throttling the life out of him, choking him to death right there in the recovery room. As he squeezed, the giant bent down and exhaled the most noxious, sickening breath Dave had ever smelled, right in his face.
“Goddammit,” Dave gagged, but all that came out was a wet, glottal sound.
Worse, he couldn’t budge the man’s hands. They were huge: the wrists were like small tree trunks, while the hands themselves looked like Virginia hams—only bigger. All the SEAL training in the world wouldn’t make a dent in this guy.
Then, the monster leaned even closer and spit something at him—into his face. His mouth, to be exact. The creature spit something hard and metallic into his . . .
( . . . key?)
. . . mouth, and he knew without looking, the way one does in dreams, that it was an old-fashioned skeleton key, with a skull at one end. Dave tried to spit the thing back out but couldn’t. He was going to choke to death on a damned key.
Panic shot into his chest just as the giant stopped throttling him, smiled and . . . began vomiting on him.
Only it wasn’t really vomit. It was a mouthful of . . .
. . . photographs?
Yes: 35mm color photos.
The missing Roswell photographs.
Dave watched in numb disbelief as the long-lost photos poured from the giant’s mouth. His revulsion peaked when the giant released him, picked up the soggy, puke-spattered photos and began stuffing them back into his mouth.
“My Glh . . . God . . .” Dave choked.
“God?” the giant managed, still munching on the photos. He chewed the last of them up, swallowed them down, and added, “Huh, God’s dead.”
Dave was incapable of a rational response. He lashed out with both fists, hammering at the giant’s Adam’s apple, hoping to crush the larynx or break the hyoid bone, but missing every time. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t connect. It was like being in a bad dream. He needed a weapon, something to hit him with—
Dave glanced at the bedside table. Holding his breath, he rolled over on his side, reached for the phone, and . . .
. . . woke up.
And glanced around the room.
He wasn’t in the E.R., or Recovery or anywhere near the hospital. He was at some strange house way out in the sticks, and he remembered: Cyndi’s country home, which she almost never used. And he was on the living room sofa . . . with Cyndi?!
She lay curled up nice and snug beside him, fast asleep.
“Hey, Cyn, wake up.” Dave shook her shoulder. “C’mon, Cyndi . . .” He tried to lean over and shake her harder, but the dizziness whacked him again; he felt as if he were swooning. And maybe he was: this woman still had that effect on him . . . she was so beautiful, so perfect. And she was lying next to him. On her sofa. Just the two of them . . .
Maybe there was a God after all.
She awoke and stretched languorously, luxuriously, like a cat.
“C’mon, Cyn, get up,” David urged. “It’s eight o’clock.”
“Yeah, we gotta roll or we’ll be late for work.”
“Work?” Cyndi finally came to and sat up beside him. “What time is it?”
“In the morning?”
“I think so,” Dave said, sounding unsure; all he could see was the wall clock.
Cyndi leaned over the edge of the couch and glanced out her living room window. The woods and fields beyond lay blanketed in blackness.
“It’s eight at night, Nimrod,” she said, with a sigh. “Besides, you’re on leave.”
She turned her face to him and instead of the wry grin or smile he was expecting, she gave him only a blank stare.
“Hardly that,” she said, finally. “You must return to Israel as soon as possible.”
He blinked. The wheels within began turning—or tried to. “Did we . . . eh?”
“Eh, no, we didn’t. I merely kept an eye on you so you wouldn’t die. Once I saw you would survive, I must have nodded off here.”
“What about Attila?”
“We picked him up from your apartment on the way home,” she answered. “Don’t you remember?”
David shrugged one shoulder. “I can’t remember anything.”
“He’s sleeping right next to you, on the floor.” She pointed to a spot next to the sofa. Dave glanced to his right and saw the raggedy old Siamese curled up below him. Attila was lying as close to him as possible, without actually being on him.
“Little bugger,” Dave said, surprised at the lump in his throat; probably indigestion.
“Oh, I fear you won’t be seeing Detective Lacy again.”
“He was run over in the hospital parking lot last night. Cut in half, they say.”
“Hit-and-run,” she said. “So? Are you?”
“Am I what?” He was conscious of a swimming sensation between his eyes.
“Going back to Israel?”
Dave paused to gather what was left of his mind. His brain simply did not want to function: the wheels within felt gummed up, clogged. The pain medication, probably.
“What does that have to do with Detective Lacy?” he asked.
“So you avoid the same fate,” she replied. “That car is still out there.”
“Uh . . . not right away, no. I’ll worry about God Keys and Doomsdays later, OK? I’ve got an appointment to keep on Wednesday. With your friend, Galileo.”
“But you can’t move,” she insisted. “Your head—”
“—Is made of stone. Or so my editor tells me. A few bumps here or there won’t matter. Here, help me up.”
“You can’t see Dr. Galilei today.”
He turned toward her, swaying a bit and blinking, as if hungover.
“That’s right, it’s only Tuesday, isn’t it?”
“It’s Wednesday, all right. But you can’t drive anywhere. You’ve got to can—”
“I’ve lost a full day? Without a single drink?” He touched his forehead.
“You’re staying here, on the sofa.”
“But Attila needs his food,” he replied. “And I need my car and clothes and—”
“Forget it,” she said. “They’re probably watching your apartment, the observatory, all the places you usually go. Until we can get a fix on these people, and what they want, you’re not leaving this house.”
“I’ll take care of things, you stay put on that couch. I’ve got to get us some food, too. There’s nothing here to eat. Oh, one more thing . . .” She rummaged in her purse.
“Your doctor found this on the floor of the Recovery Room, by your gurney. Is it yours?” she asked, as she handed him the object.
It was a slightly damp, but thoroughly solid, skeleton key.
With just a trace of his saliva on it.
“OK, look, I don’t . . . think I’m feeling . . . all that well, just now. Maybe I should just go back to my place, crash for a few hours and—”
“Just lie still and do as I say,” she said.
And with that, she took his head in both her hands, planted an incredibly juicy kiss on his mouth and gave his skull a slight twist.
And he was out. Cold.
She pocketed the key and left.
End, Part One
Tonight we get THREE chapters all at once, 12 – 14, as they are short, brief and to the point.
Six thousand miles away, Inspector Jacob Schriever stood at his kitchen window, gazing into Jerusalem’s pre-dawn darkness. Although it was barely five o’clock, he had already finished breakfast. His wife Yakira, on the other hand, hadn’t touched hers. She was still standing at the balcony door as usual, watching the stars.
But he couldn’t worry about that now; he had other things on his mind. The Eilat Hilton murders for one, and Dr. Globus’s death. The IPD/Mossad unit he’d sent to the U.S. (code-named “Whale”) would achieve their mission (“Operation Jonah,” natu-rally), so no worries there. They would have the American in custody soon. That wasn’t the problem.
He just wished he hadn’t granted permission to kill the young man—that was the problem. Schriever really did want to question the American. He was particularly in-terested in how Connors would account for his fingerprints in poor old Globus’s room the night of his disappearance.
Above all, Inspector Schriever wanted to know why.
Why the American had gone to such lengths to murder two total strangers. Why he had kidnapped a third victim—an old man in his 70s—only to butcher him in the de-sert. Why he had torn all the victims’ spinal cords out the back of their necks, and . . .
No, he would not think about that. It was too sick, too depraved. Too American.
Yet, he had to know. He had to know why.
It was now just past five; he had to report by 6:00 a.m., regardless of his rank. The Israeli Police Department was a crack paramilitary force—more like a commando squad than a police agency. Even Chief Inspectors had rules, regulations and superiors to obey.
Chief Inspectors were also human, however, with all the personal problems and crises that entailed. And Inspector Schriever’s personal crisis was at that moment standing across the kitchen from him, gazing out the balcony door at the stars, as she had been all night. And not for the first time, either.
Yakira was really starting to scare him. She was no longer merely “eccentric” or a concern, but a full-fledged crisis. He longed for their early days together, when they were young and content, and she called him “husband” as a term of affection, as in “You look handsome today, husband.” And he would reply, “And you are beautiful as always, wife.” Like the good, solid, Israeli married couple they were. But those days were long, long gone. The loss of their adopted child hadn’t helped.
“Come along, dear,” he said. “You need your sleep.” He touched her elbow and tried to guide her away from the balcony, but she wouldn’t budge.
“They’re coming,” she whispered, still staring into the sky. Her reflection in the glass was so pale, she looked like a ghost.
“Who’s coming, my dear?”
“They are,” she said.
“And who are ‘they?’”
She turned to face him at last, her eyes deeply circled and hollow.
“Yes, they. Are coming. Back.”
“But who are ‘they?’” he repeated.
“And this time they’re angry, Jacob . . .
“. . . they’re very, very angry. . .”
Another entity feeling a bit of anger just then was Dr. Levi Schwartz, administrator of the ICRC/Segré Observatory, atop Mt. Hermon in northern Israel. His anger was directed not at any individual, but at the incomprehensible objects his telescopes were picking up from the Dark Rift.
Properly known as the Israeli Cosmic Ray Center/Emilio Segré Observatory, the joint Israeli-Swedish-Italian facility had squatted atop the mountain for over 30 years in a single trailer and a pair of Quonset Huts.
Initially a cooperative venture for young Swedish, Italian and Israeli astrono-mers to study cosmic ray contamination in Earth’s atmosphere, the observatory had literally exploded in size between December, 2011 and November, 2012.
Its mission and brief, likewise, had blown up. Cosmic rays were the least of the staff’s concerns. Like Cyndi and David’s tiny observatory back in Virginia, the ICRC now studied the Dark Rift—and only the Dark Rift—and the objects feared to emerge from it. Now, it seemed, they were here.
Or, on their way, at least: 13 of them.
These were Apollo-class asteroids, as opposed to Atens or Amors, middling in size, but moving at tremendous speed. As their classification as Apollos indicated, they were on an interior trajectory that would bring them in very, very close contact to earth.
That alone was enough to set Dr. Schwartz’s teeth on edge. But it was what he’d learned that morning, before the damned space rocks had shown themselves, that really got under his hide.
And that was the Israeli Air Force: they were commandeering his observatory and cosmic ray center, all its equipment, staff, lasers, scopes, collimeters, everything—in much the same way as the Department of Defense had commandeered Cyndi Malach’s observatory on Mt. Nebo, in Alexandria, VA.
Fuming, Schwartz secretly hoped the damned asteroids would impact the earth. Right on top of the Air Force vehicles that were even now streaming up the mountain-side to take over his observatory—like a massive load of cosmic crap dumped on their heads.
Serve them right. Let them see what it was like, to run such a place and have the cosmos take a giant dump on your head. The thought made Schwartz smile. But only momentarily.
The Air Force had arrived.
So this is what it’s like to die . . .
Strange. He didn’t know there would be pain in the afterlife. And where was the tunnel of light? The deceased loved ones? The angels and harps and—
“—Unhhh,” he groaned. “What the . . . ?”
“Ssssh, don’t try to speak.” Cyndi was leaning over him, her long, black hair fram-ing her face, a bright, white light shining behind her, making her look just like . . .
“ . . . an angel . . .” he whispered.
“Sssshhh . . .”
“Attila . . . my cat . . . What about—”
“He’s fine. You fed him before you left, remember?”
“Uhhh . . .”
He tried to nod but only succeeded in passing out again.
“Head injuries can be tricky,” a male voice was saying. “We won’t know anything definitive until . . .”
“I walk . . . the flock . . . outta here.”
“David!” Cyndi was there again, bending over him. “Please lay still, try not to speak. The doctor says you’ve got a bad concussion.”
“But I ordered . . . a good one.”
“Crazy American,” she said, stroking his face now. Her fingertips felt like feath-ers; and her perfume . . . Here he was, with his brains scrambled in the busted eggshell of his skull, and all he could think about was her perfume, the night breeze, the car . . .
“Wh-what the hell hap—? Are you—”
“I’m fine,” she said. “Thanks to you. The police say you saved my life. Pulling me out of the way like that, taking the impact yourself.”
“S’what . . . any gennulman . . . would do.”
“That’s twice you’ve rescued me now.”
“Hmnh . . . S’what . . . any . . . gen . . .”
He didn’t sound good. Or look good, either: he was terribly pale and drawn, as if the life force was withering within.
“You stupid, crazy redneck.” Her eyes grew moist.
“Yuppie . . .”
“Don’t die on me, David,” she said. “Please don’t die . . .”
“Tuesday,” he murmured, as if it were perfectly sensible.
And passed out again.
It would be six hours before they could keep him conscious, more or less. Long enough for the ER physician to upgrade his condition from “Critical” to “Satisfactory” (though Dave didn’t think there was anything at all “Satisfactory” about the way he felt).
“You’re one lucky man,” the doctor told him.
“Lucky . . .”
“As in, no broken bones or skull fractures. Just a nasty concussion, a deep thigh bruise and a hip-pointer on your left side. Other than that, you’re fine.”
“Nothing . . . dislocated?”
“Nope,” said the medical man. “Radiology, CTs, MRIs, everything looks OK. With any luck, you’ll be out of here this afternoon.”
“That’s . . . good. Thanks, Doc.”
“Your prognosis looks good, too, though that hip’s going to hurt like hell for the next few weeks. I’ve prescribed a pain reliever for you, and I recommend you use a walker or a cane for the first week or so.”
Dave recalled one of his old unit’s slogans, and repeated it to himself with each throb of his head and hip: (SEALs don’t feel pain . . . SEALs don’t feel pain . . .)
Which was a good thing, since the doctor didn’t seem in a hurry to actually give him any pain medication just then.
“We’ve had you under observation for the past fourteen hours,” he said, “so I doubt there’s any permanent head injury. However, I do want someone watching you for the next ten to twelve hours, just to be safe.”
“I’ll stay with him.” Cyndi appeared by his side.
“Good. Keep him awake until midnight or so—no naps, no alcohol. Watch TV or something. A little coffee or tea wouldn’t hurt.”
Dave tried to smile. “But dodging cars is off the menu, eh?”
“Just for tonight,” the doctor said. “Oh, I almost forgot: there’s a detective waiting to see you. I can tell him to come back later, if you’d prefer.”
Dave tried to shake his head, but only went dizzy again. He put a hand to his tem-ple and winced. “Nah, that’s OK, bring ‘im on.”
Cyndi squeezed his hand. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, let’s get this over with. Then . . .”
“Back to your place,” she said. “And Attila.”
“Yeah . . . he’ll be furious.”
The doctor smiled and left, allowing Dave to see into the outer hallway.
At first, he couldn’t spot anyone waiting for him. No uniformed officers, no plain-clothed detectives, nothing. Then, like an extra from central casting, a gigantic intern strode past—a Goliath in scrubs. He had to be 7½ to 8 feet tall, maybe 400 pounds, and looked vaguely Greek or Arabic—dark, swarthy, with thick, curly black hair. As Dave watched him lumber by, he noticed that the man had six fingers on one hand.
Which was crazy, of course. A hallucination. He must’ve hit his head harder than he’d realized.
“Hey, Cyn,” he said, still staring into the hallway, “don’t let me forget: I have an interview with your friend Galilei, Wednesday at noon. OK?”
“David, what’s wrong?” Cyndi asked. “You look—”
“Nothing, nothing,” he said, eyes still fixed on the hallucination. “No biggie.”
“All right,” Cyndi said. “Just don’t mention the D.O.D., understood?”
“Sure, yeah. Understood.” As he said this, the hallucination stopped in mid-stride, turned and stared right at him. And grinned, showing two rows of teeth on each jaw. Then continued on his way.
No one else seemed to notice him, or appeared to care if they did. Dave blinked several times, but said nothing. Definitely a hallucination.
The detective, however, was not.
He appeared at the door, a burly, balding, red-faced man in a rumpled suit, who looked like he might have played football at one time—a long time ago. Now, he looked like he’d just eaten one. As he approached, Dave felt Cyndi step close beside him, as if shielding him.
“David Connors?” the detective asked.
The man smiled and held out his right hand, which boasted a huge, high school class ring (T.C. Williams H.S., Class of ’83). That explained his size: the cop was a former Titan. Dave shook hands with him and waited.
“I’m Detective Sergeant Lacy,” he said, as he withdrew a small notebook and pencil from his jacket. “I won’t keep you, just a few quick questions. Have to ask ‘em now before too much time passes. You know, head injury and all.”
“So, let’s start at the top: who would want to kill you?”
“It wasn’t an accident?”
The detective glanced at Cyndi, then shook his head.
“Not likely. Based on your girlfriend’s statement—”
“—Just friend’s,” she corrected him.
“Sorry. Based on your friend’s statement, it was intentional. Car came flying up the street in the wrong lane, no headlights, even went up on the sidewalk to hit you. Didn’t stop or slow down, just creamed you, turned up an alley and . . . disappeared.”
“Witnesses?” Dave asked.
Detective Lacy shook his head. “Just you and your girlfr—your friend.”
“I am actually his employer,” Cyndi said, giving Sgt. Lacy the hard eye. “We also happen to be . . . good friends. There is no romantic involvement.”
“Uh huh,” said the Det. “Whatever. Still no witnesses.”
“Huh,” David muttered. “That’s strange.”
“North Union’s usually crawling with tourists. In fact, I thought I saw one watch-ing us from an alley just before—”
“Not last night, you didn’t. You two were the only pedestrians on the block at the time.” Sgt. Lacy paused and asked, “Did you see the license plate, by any chance?”
“No,” David said. Cyndi shook her head.
“Make or model of the car?” Lacy pressed.
“Small and dark,” David told him. “And low to the ground, like a sports car. But it wasn’t American: sounded more like a rice-burner—a Nissan, maybe, or a Mazda.”
Sgt. Lacy scribbled in his notepad, nodding his head. Then he glanced up and asked, “How about the driver? You see the face?”
“No,” David said.
“It happened so fast,” Cyndi added. “I barely even saw the car.”
“You sure, Miss?” he asked her. “You told the officer who responded, ‘That jerk nearly killed us,’ which sounds to me like you saw a male driver.”
“Figure of speech,” Cyndi replied. “I’d just nearly been run over, Sergeant. I may have said ‘jerk,’ but I don’t know what sex the driver was.”
“How about it, David?” Lacy asked. “Think hard. Maybe you saw a face or—”
“No,” David repeated. “Nothing.”
“Male, female? Young? Old? Middle—”
“I told you, nothing. All I saw was the front bumper and then . . . I was flying.”
“OK, OK, take it easy,” Lacy said, scribbling a final note. “Just doin’ my job.”
“Sorry,” David said. “Didn’t mean to snap, I just . . . I’m really tired.”
“I’ll bet,” Lacy said. “But, just in case—”
“Detective, I think this interview is over,” Cyndi said, a hint of steel in her voice.
Sgt. Lacy smiled. “I was only going to give you my card,” he said. “In case you remember something, or have any questions. All right?”
“Very well,” she said. She took the card and stuck it into her purse.
“OK, then, I’ll let you two go. Again, if you remember seeing—”
—“We’ll be sure to call you, yes. Thank you, Detective.” Cyndi turned her back on Sgt. Lacy and began helping David to his feet.
“Thanks, Sergeant,” David said. “And I will. Call, that is. If I remember.”
The cop stared at him a good, long moment, then said: “For your sake, young man, I hope you do.” Then he turned and walked away.
As he left the E.R. area and entered the parking lot, Sgt. Lacy thought about the last note he’d made in his notebook. True, it was part intuition, but it was more than just a hunch; it was based on personal observation—what poker players call “tells.” And, although brief, it could prove the most telling observation of the entire case.
The girlfr. knows something, he’d jotted.
And he couldn’t wait to find out what that something was.
Which was why, as Sgt. Lacy left the E.R., stepped over the curb and into the parking lot, he wasn’t exactly surprised when he heard the grinding, high-pitched whine of a foreign sports car (more like a rice-burner) racing up behind him. He spun around as fast as his bulk would spin, but it was already too late.
The little (Mazda? Nissan?) slammed into him, smashing him against the grill of his own car, crushing his spine. The driver floored it, and the rice-burner whined, grinding Lacy’s body against the grill, severing the detective’s spine at the waist. If not for his bulk, he would have been cut in half. As it was, his upper body swung nearly 1800 to the left, then flopped onto the parking lot, eyes still open, lips still moving, but emitting only gouts of dark, thick, syrupy blood.
The little car backed up over the curb, turned and sped from the lot unnoticed.