….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.
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.
David glanced about but, thankfully, no one had seen them.
“Devour me?” he asked.
“Oh, yes. Probably while you’re still alive and kicking,” she added.
At first, he wanted to laugh. But for some reason he found it impossible.
“Look, do we really have time for this?” he asked, waving a hand at the museum around them. “Aren’t we just sitting ducks in here?”
“No, no,” she replied, smiling. “No one will find us here. Besides,” she added, taking him by the arm again, “there are some things I have to show you.”
As they entered the wide, arched doorway to the Ancient & Prehistoric Gallery, Dave tried to smile.
“Another of their dining preferences,” Cyndi continued, “is to suck your eyeballs right out of their sockets and slurp them down like oysters.” She said this while smiling. “Then, they’ll bite your tongue and rip it out by the roots—all while you’re still breathing. Or trying to.”
“Uh huh. Nice. But, Cyn—”
“—Then, they’ll rip off your head and suck out all the goop, like a big cherry cordial. With any luck, you’ll be dead before they start in on your genitals.”
Dave stared back at her.
“Hey,” she said, shrugging, “you asked.”
“You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“As a heart attack, with cancer, on rye,” she answered.
“Well, why stop now?” he said, and gulped. “Then what will they do?”
“Simple. Go on about their business—preparing the way for their Master’s return, December 21st.”
“Their . . . Master?”
“The Shining One, the great Sun God himself: Apollo.”
“Whoa, back up a sec,” Dave said. “Aren’t we mixing cultures here? You said the Nephi . . . whatevers are in the bible, which is Hebrew. Apollo was a Greek god, wasn’t he? Of the sun, music, poetry, divination . . .”
“Indeed,” she said. “Apollo was one of the original Fallen. Even the bible speaks of him. In Revelations 9, he is called ‘Abaddon.’”
“You’ve lost me. How can the Greek Apollo and the Hebrew Abaddon be one and the same?”
“Come along now, David. Can’t you guess?” she asked. “They’re all the same. All the demi-gods, giants and heroes of old—the Sumerian Anunnaki, the Greek Olympians, even the Mayan gods—all the same. Same stories, same creatures. All Fallen . . . all damned. But the only one whose name was the same in Greek and Roman myth was Apollo. Oh! Look!” she cried, her voice echoing off the walls.
At first, Dave was sure he’d see a giant Nef-il-thing, or Anunnaki. Some batrachian monstrosity straight out of Lovecraft. Instead, Cyndi pointed toward a row of fetishes, or statuettes, from Ancient Egypt.
“What the hell, Cyn?” he said. “You trying to give me a heart attack?”
Now she was giggling at the ancient figures, which were lined along an Egyptian wall, all in a row. There was the jackal-headed Anubis, then Ma’at, Thet, Osiris, even a depiction of Egypt’s premier goddess, Isis. It was toward the latter of these that Cyndi was pointing.
“Look how thin they made her! Ridiculous. Isis wasn’t some hipless, flat-chested papyrus reed. She was buxom, beautiful and proud—the Queen of her sex. The Egyptians could be such prudes at times.”
“You still haven’t told me why these things would want to ‘devour’ me and suck my brains out like a big cherry cordial.”
She looked back to him and sighed, her big hoop earrings jiggling slightly.
“All right, then: the Executive Summary. Ready, Caveman?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be. Yuppie,” he added.
“Very well,” she replied. “The Neph—I mean, the Fallen—were angels created by the Elohim hundreds of thousands of years ago, to serve as early man’s Watchers.”
“And why did early man need ‘Watchers?’”
“Well, he’d already shown himself to be, um . . . somewhat wayward,” she said. “That little episode with the apple and the serpent, in the Garden of Eden?”
“Oh, yeah,” Dave said. “That.”
“The Elohim saw that not only did man need a Savior, to redeem him from his original folly—his Fall—he would need a band of Watchers, as well. To keep an eye on things while the Elohim were busy elsewhere.”
Then Dave remembered: Sitchin . . . the Sumerians . . . the Anunnaki.
“Hey, didn’t the Sumerians refer to their Garden as ‘E.DIN’? Isn’t that where—”
“Exactly,” she answered. “All the myths and religions begin in Sumer—which the Egyptians later called Ta Neter, meaning ‘Land of the Watchers.’ Moses merely copied down a tale that was already thousands of years old, and E.DIN became Eden, while the serpent became Satan.”
“So . . . what became of these Watchers? And E.DIN?”
“The Elohim declared that man’s Savior had to descend from the original line of Adam—his bloodline. But Lucifer, the Resistor, immediately set about ruining that goal.”
“As I said, the sons of God began to notice the daughters of men,” she explained. “Gradually, over many generations, the Watchers became . . . very attracted to human women.”
“Right, right. I remember.”
“Lucifer came up with a bold and original plan: to destroy the Adamic bloodline and prevent a savior from ever being born.”
“How do you think, Nimrod?” she asked. “By pissing in the gene pool.”
“By contaminating human DNA with inhuman, angelic DNA, so that no savior could ever come from the pure line of Adam.”
“Ahh. And he did this by—”
“By using the Watchers’ greatest weakness against them. Magnifying the itch until it was insatiable. At first, the Watchers resisted the temptation—it was, after all, unnatural. For heavenly beings to even think of joining themselves in that way to mortals was repugnant—like bestiality. They agreed never to think of it or discuss it again.”
“But then . . .” he said, leaning closer; and from here, he caught a whiff of the sweet, yet piquant perfume she wore. It was an exotic, sexy blend, a musky, spicy fragrance that hinted of incense and the rarest oils of ancient Araby: hyssop, cinnamon and cassia. Her eyes were so erotic, hypnotic, and her lips just whispered kisses.
“But then, over the course of many centuries,” she continued, “the immortal could no longer refuse the mortal. Year after year, lifetime upon lifetime, watching human beauty age, wither and die—ineluctably, irresistibly, until they simply could no longer resist. And, so, finally, they . . . fell.”
She nodded. “The Grigori—the Watchers—left their first estate, fell to earth and mated with mortal women. ‘…And they took them wives of all which they chose.’”
“There’s that phrase again.”
“Genesis, chapter six: ‘And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.’”
“‘Sons of God?’”
“Bene ha Elohim in Hebrew, and they were assuredly not sons of man, but of the Elohim—literally, the gods. Sons of the gods.”
“‘Let us create man in our own image? . . .’”
“Any idea what happens next?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Didn’t like Sunday School.”
“‘There were giants in the earth in those days, 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 nodded. “OK, that does sound familiar. Not from Sunday School, but from Sitchin. He spoke of the ‘men of renown,’ that the word ‘renown’ is a mistranslation of the Sumerian word ‘shem,’ meaning ‘flying ship.’”
Another nod. “And the word ‘giant’ here is . . . that other name, which stems from the Hebrew word ‘naphal,’ meaning ‘to fall.’ Because that’s just what they did—they fell to earth in order to mate and live among their human women, coming to ground at Mt. Hermon, in Northern Israel. The Sumerians—the first known human civilization—called them ‘Anunnaki,’ meaning ‘Those Who From Heaven To Earth Came.’”
“And you’re saying they’re the same as the biblical Nefil-whatevers?”
“Some would argue the point, but I think so,” she said. “If you trace these beings through all the different mythos of all the ancient cultures, you’ll find the same stories—same wars, same intrigues, even the same love affairs. But whatever they are called—Anunnaki, Fallen Ones, Watchers—one truth comes through loud and clear, from every ancient culture: they spawned a race of mutants, giants—half angel, half human—whom early man worshipped as demigods and heroes.”
“Like the Olympians of ancient Greece? Apollo, Mercury and so on?”
“Exactly like Apollo, Mercury and so on. And before them, the Titans,” she said. “Only the names vary from one culture to the next.”
“Except for Apollo.”
“Correct again. Only, in John’s Revelation, he is called ‘Abaddon.’ But in the very next line he adds, ‘In the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon,’ which was indeed the Grecian form of the name Apollo.”
“Wow. So . . . even the bible confirms it.”
“Yes,” she said. “And he is definitely the son of Satan. Remember what the Spirit says to the Church of Pergamos in Revelations Four: ‘I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is . . .’”
“What’s that mean?” Dave asked.
“Satan’s seat? The only one of these cities that had anything like a throne or altar to other gods was Pergamos. Have you ever seen the magnificent altar in the Deutches Museum, in Berlin?”
“Oh, hell’s bells, you’re right: The Altar of Zeus! From Pergamos! So, you’re saying Zeus was . . . Satan?”
She nodded. “The original Fallen angel, and the father of all the Nephilim who followed. Yes. The very same. And his greatest son was? . . .”
“The same. The gorgeous, golden god of the sun, the same one who flayed the Satyr Marsyus alive for challenging him in music. Ripped his skin off him and hung it from a tree—all while poor Marsyus was still breathing. He begged Apollo to spare him, but as Ovid wrote:
“‘ . . . as he cried the skin cracked from his body / In one wound, blood streaming over muscles,/ Veins stripped naked, pulse beating; entrails could be / Counted as they moved; even the heart shone red / Within his breast.’”
“Pretty,” said David. “So, you’re saying . . . what are you saying?”
“He is what’s coming through the Dark Rift on December 21st.”
David could only blink at her. Twice.
“Read Revelations, Chapter 9,” she continued. “He will come to earth and release all the imprisoned Fallen Ones that Yahweh banished there hundreds of millennia ago. They will be loosed upon the earth at the End of Days, to inaugurate the Time of Tribulation—seven years of hell on earth. Which gives you . . .” and here she glanced at her wristwatch “. . . about three weeks.”
“To what? Stop the Apocalypse? Right, like—”
“Or at least delay it, David. Yahweh doesn’t want it to happen, you know. It’s up to mankind to fight these things, at the end. But you can only do this if you return to Israel. That’s where all the answers are. And it all begins with finding the key to God, to unravel the mystery. Do that, and everything else will follow.”
“The . . . key to God.”
“OK, I’ll bite. What is this . . . God Key?”
“For that, you will have to speak with Dr. Galilei. I gave you his card for a reason, Nimrod. Go call him.”
“What, now? Tonight?”
“Yes, now. Tonight. But hurry, he’ll be turning in soon.”
“How would you—” but Dave wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer to that question. He excused himself and went in search of a payphone; his cell was practically useless anymore, since the sunspots began—and the asteroids he’d been reading about in the newspapers. Which were apparently coming through the Mayan “Dark Rift,” or “Black Road,” the central axis of the Milky Way, the subject of the “Great Alignment” on December 21, 2012. In other words, the day the world ended. In three weeks.
According to a bunch of dead Indians in Mexico.
Dismissing these thoughts, he stalked toward the rear of the first floor, still trying to absorb this fresh nonsense (Nef-il-things? Watchers? God Key?) Bizarre. He had no idea Cyndi was this far gone. Why did the great-looking ones always have to be so crazy? But what the hell, she’d hired him when no one else would, so . . .
He glanced around the giant room he was in, looking for strange eyes upon them, watching for watchers. Nothing but Nefil- statues. Demons, apparently. He finally found a payphone and called the number on the card Cyndi had given him. He caught Dr. Galilei at home, just turning in for the night—just as Cyndi had predicted.
They set an interview time for noon Wednesday, on campus. Which gave him 1½ days to formulate his questions, narrow them down and be ready. The physicist sounded sober, serious and seriously geeky. Which seemed just right to him.
Satisfied he’d done all he could in pursuit of Cyndi’s “God Key,” David returned to where she stood giggling at the other Egyptian funerary fetishes.
To Dave, this seemed disrespectful somehow, at least discourteous. But . . . that was Cyndi: always irreverent. She pointed out statuettes of a few of the Nefil-whatsits, including the Egyptian gods Seth, Ra and Osiris, brother and consort to Egypt’s premier goddess, Isis. Then, at 11:00 pm, they wound their way toward the exit.
And all the while, David’s mind was totally preoccupied—not with any of the absurdities Cyndi had told him. What he couldn’t stop thinking about was just what the hell had happened last Friday night, in Israel.
The Washington Post headline haunted him. Two people murdered in their hotel room, a third kidnapped and killed in the desert, while he, Dave Connors, had been allowed to escape? It made no sense. Maybe he would have to go back to Israel after all.
Nah. That was crazy thinking.
They headed for the door.
He checked all around them. Again. And even though he was with the sexiest, most beautiful woman he’d ever known, whose prisoner he still was (at least in his own heart), all he could think about was seeing Dr. Galilei on Wednesday—the one person with a sketch of the Roswell symbols.
True, it wasn’t a photograph, but if he could compare the two sets of symbols side-by-side, he’d see for himself. And if they were even remotely similar, then . . .
“Come along, David, they’re closing,” Cyndi called. She was already heading for the door. He’d been so absorbed in his Roswell reverie he hadn’t noticed where she was going. He followed her to the main double doors, pushed one of them open for her with his left hip and stepped into the night.
An Indian Summer night, at that: the weather was velvety wet, with just a hint of winter in the wind. With the river and sea only a few blocks away, and the old, Colonial gardens filled with foxglove and hemlock, the night air carried a whiff of what the 18th Century must have smelled like: a dusty, musky, antique scent, combined with a briny sea breeze. Northern Virginia nights in late November were magical, no doubt of that. As was the woman walking with him—the one he was trying so hard not to fall for again. Not after that first time. No, it was over, done with, they were friends and that was that. No falling head over heels again—not for her, not for anyone. Ever again.
As they reached the corner of North Union and turned south, headed for the parking lot, Dave thought he saw someone standing in the mouth of Fayette Alley, watching them. He couldn’t pick out any features, merely a pearl-gray, motionless silhouette. Before he could remark on it, Cyndi reached over and squeezed his biceps.
“Cyndi, I wish to hell you wouldn’t do that.”
“Mmm . . . a strapping youth, like Apollo. Just the kind Isis would gobble up . . .”
“Yeah? I’ll gobble you up,” he started to say, before the screech of tires pierced the night and the car with no headlights came rocketing out of the blackness at them.
David tried to yell “Look out!” but it was too late: the black, mashed-in rice-burner jumped the curb as he yanked Cyndi by the collar and threw her out of the way, then took the hit on his left hip.
Then felt himself go flying, head over heels in the dark, as if in love with the night.
Dave parked at the back of the observatory lot, which was usually empty by 5:00 p.m., save for the all-nighters—mostly grad school students working on their doctorates. At 29, Connors was the oldest employee on staff without an advanced degree, and the only part-timer. He earned slightly above minimum wage. Mortifying, yes, but it was his own fault and he knew it. Sometimes, Life in The Big City simply sucked, that’s all.
It sucked even worse when one beat up the son of the local District Attorney.
Which, of course, was the identity of the giant, slobbering drunk who’d manhandled Cyndi Malach that long ago night at Rockitt’s Pub.
Certainly, Dave didn’t know it at the time, had no idea who the man was. All he knew was that a drooling, leering Goliath was groping his Bathsheba. And, like the biblical David, he went to war—all testosterone, honor and righteous indignation. He was convicted of Assault & Battery and sentenced to two years in state prison (de-ferred in favor of two years probation, including “anger management” classes).
No matter that Cyndi had emerged with scratches, bruises and torn clothing from the giant, David was toast. The SEALs booted him, the Navy gave him a dishonorable, and left him to scramble like a busted egg. All he had left to show for his three years service was a mean left hook, cannonball deltoids and a thick set of trapezius muscles that bunched up on either side of his neck like a pair of cobras—the result of hoisting heavy anchor chain. The effect made him look pissed off and vaguely dangerous. Which didn’t exactly help with the ladies. Thanks SEALs! Still, Cyndi knew he was gentler than he appeared, and immediately offered him the part-time gig at her obser-vatory.
But . . . he declined. He had to go it on his own.
Then irony, never far from human affairs, stepped in: he hired on as a bouncer at Rockitt’s—the very club where he’d lost his SEAL career. Seemed the owner had seen him take care of “the Groper” and was impressed. Within six months, David had saved up enough to enroll in UVA’s archeology program. What the hell, he’d always been intrigued by fossils, and burying himself in the deep, dark dirt sounded about right to him, just then.
Things started looking up. He won the Fulbright Scholarship for two years study in Israel under Dr. Oded, who actually took him in to live with him, his wife Sophie and disabled brother, Mawet, a hydroencephalus patient, who was consigned to a bed in a dimly lit back room. The Fulbright money eventually ran out, however, and he re-turned home flat broke. And finally accepted Cyndi’s offer.
That she’d actually hired him, sans experience, was a miracle. He abandoned his studies for a paycheck, and counted himself lucky.
Yeah, lucky, he often told himself, staying positive. High-tech. Cutting-edge.
The laser-geeking was a dead-end, part-time job; hence, the freelancing. And still he usually had too much month left at the end of each paycheck. In truth, he only had two reasons for actually coming in to work anymore, and one of them wasn’t the “pay.”
The first reason, of course, was to look at Cyndi, to be near Cyndi . . . to watch her move, hear her voice. He wasn’t a stalker, he was simply infatuated—and trying not to be. Still, Cyndi made the nightly grind much more tolerable than it would’ve been oth-erwise. (It didn’t help that she’d turned him on to Stevie Wonder, whose velvet, heart-wringing melodies only made him that much more moonstruck).
The second reason was the bug-zapping.
Though hired to beam artificial “guide-stars” into space via lasers, for focusing the huge optical telescopes, Dave soon found other uses for his toys. During down time, he often amused himself by unleashing the smaller laser on local insects—mosquitoes, flies, wasps, moths, etc. Over the years, he’d become a surprisingly good shot.
If there were a doctorate for frying bugs on the fly, he would’ve won it long ago. Naturally, he kept his pastime a secret: using the observatory’s lasers on the local fau-na and flora could get him fired, especially now that the D.O.D. had taken over the facility.
As he walked from the parking lot toward the great, dome-shaped building, Dave noticed the new, metallic-blue, 2013 Mazda RX9 in the corner space. Cyndi Malach, the Assistant Director was still there, putting in the midnight oil on that Mayan Doomsday nonsense for the D.O.D. Though he didn’t envy her that particu-lar chore, Dave did like her Mazda. No, scratch that: he loved it.
The car was a rocket on wheels: an 800cc x 2 engine, goosed by an electric super-charger. Though it only cranked 300 horses, it also harbored a twin-clutched, six-speed, manual tranny with two floor pedals. The little bugger would explode off the line.
He was picturing himself at the wheel of such a beast when he noticed another car parked in front of the observatory. This one looked like a scorcher, too, though he couldn’t determine year, make or model. It was one of those generic, foreign sports-utility-rice-burners built off-shore somewhere.
Whatever it was, the car was midnight black and built for speed. Maybe a Nissan or Mitsubishi, he didn’t know. He knew it would hit 60 mph before he did on foot, that was certain (though why he thought of running from it wasn’t so certain).
At that moment, it wasn’t hitting anything: it was parked—in a no-parking zone, baring signs warning violators they would be towed at the owner’s expense. Weird.
When he saw the plates, Dave realized why it was flouting the law: it was a government car, of course—all animals being equal, only some being more equal than others . . . (Probably D.O.D; bastards couldn’t stay away from Mt. Nebo).
Weird, too, was the odd stillness he noticed on entering the observatory . . .
as if the whole building were holding its breath, waiting for something—but what? The dreaded Dark Rift to gape open? More solar flares? Maybe the Mayan Doomsday was nigh, after all.
Connors scanned his I.D. card in the security turnstile and strolled into the observatory, his senses on alert, though he couldn’t say why. It was then 5:02 p.m., and he couldn’t shake the feeling—the certainty—that something was indeed about to happen.
As it turned out, he was right—though it was happening 12 miles away at Ronald Reagan International Airport.
At 5:05 p.m. that evening, El Al flight #911, an L1011 jumbo jet out of Tel Aviv, taxied to a stop at the end of runway 3A and began disgorging its 276 passengers. Three of them, Israeli nationals traveling together, went through the usual security pro-cedures like all the other passengers, waited for their luggage like everyone else, and blended in as much as possible. No special treatment, no favors, no notice.
They stopped at the Alamo car rental desk and hired a late-model, black foreign sports sedan—modest enough to blend in, yet fast enough for their purposes. They would only need it for a few days—three, at most. Then, their cargo would be in hand, their mission at an end. Child’s play, really, for the two Mossad agents, Moshe and Aaron.
Something more for their IPD escort, Sgt. Heim.
For Mordecai Heim, it was the chance of a lifetime—to make his name in the po-lice force, cement his position at Jerusalem HQ and even move up a grade to Lieuten-ant, with a concomitant rise in pay—and he only 33 years of age. And when Inspector Schriever finally retired, there Lt. Heim would be, perched over the position, poised to fill the void—the successor insessorial. At 35, say—36 at most.
True, he had to make sure he and his Mossad friends played by the rules. The unit, ridiculously code-name “Whale” (as part of Schriever’s “Operation Jonah”), had to stay under the radar at all times—no contact with American security or police agencies whatsoever—especially not the FBI. Jerusalem HQ had made this an imperative, and would not tolerate any deviance from the course.
Certainly, he could kill the American if it came down to it, but he hoped it wouldn’t. Far better, the treats in store for Connors in Israel.
And to make it happen, Heim had to first observe—then capture—the suspect. Play by the rules. Then get him back to Israel, preferably in one piece. For questioning, yes. Ah, the questioning. How he looked forward to that.
Now, he was in the suspect’s hometown. Connors’s capture—and Heim’s career elevation—was only days, perhaps hours, away.
The good sergeant couldn’t have known it yet, but he would have competition.
Col. Whit Stansfield, USAF and ad hoc Majestic-12 agent, was in the black sports sedan on Mt. Nebo Road, going through his pre-sanction routine: checking the slide of his Sig Sauer .40, making sure the pre-ban clip (with 14 rounds) was properly seated in the firing chamber, and double-checking his line-of-sight to the target. There would be no room for error.
No attempt at kidnapping him, no chance for talk, bargaining, or explanation. The Kabbalist’s orders had been clear. And the old Jewish Wizard was one of the Big Boys, one of the Inner Sanctum of failed CIA agents, FBI clods and others who served M-12. Indeed, the Kabbalist served as The Voice of God, as far as M-12 agents were concerned. He Who Must Be Obeyed.
And he wasn’t even remotely American . . . but a babbling, half-whacked, old Jew-ish wizard in Jerusalem—a cultist. A man of fearsome reputation, however, known only to a handful of the M-12 faithful as “The Kabbalist.”
Bizarre. That it had all come this: assassinating a part-time, minimum-wage laser dweeb. Oh, how the agency had fallen—and from what lofty heights. Who would have thought, 60 years ago during the early days of Operation Grudge, that within two gen-erations they would be charging about Northern Virginia killing meaningless little bugs like Connors at the whim of some antiquated Hebrew Mumbo-Jumbo Man. It was beyond bizarre, it was ludicrous . . . humiliating . . . heartbreaking, even.
Col. Stansfield was a proud American. Had fought and bled for his country. Knew nu-clear holocaust was inevitable, as was the return of . . . Them. The original colonists. And to think the Agency had once thought of them as harmless little “Greys,” or EBEs (Extraterres-trial Biologic Entities). Patently absurd, all of it. Now this.
But, orders were orders, and Col. Whit (“Ruff-n-Ready”) Stansfield followed his orders like a good soldier. So, he would follow these, as well, along with his half-witted Army driver and the faceless, nameless being in the backseat who seemed more like a shadow than an M-12 agent . . . or a human, for that matter.
Besides, Stansfield had nothing better to do of a cold, blustery, Monday night in late-November.
And he hadn’t killed anyone in months.
As Sgt. Heim & Co. were piling into their black sports car at the airport, and the M-12 agents parked out front were preparing for his assassination, David Connors was navigating the “beehive.” This was his nickname for the honeycomb of computer sta-tions and telescope monitors that filled the front of Mt. Nebo Observatory. Even as he neared his own “cell,” a few of the drones were already buzzing with the usual ribbing:
“Oooh, here comes Moses, fresh from the Mount.”
“Hey, Moses, you bring back any manna?”
“Yo, Moze, how was that burning bush?”
Even though WNW hadn’t published his Ten Commandments piece yet, his fans knew about his recent travels. Dave acknowledged them with a deep bow, straightened up and said: “I just want to thank all the little people here who made it possible.”
A few catcalls and groans met this. Dave smiled, waved them quiet, and said: “Honestly, folks, if you don’t keep it down you’re gonna get me promoted.”
This sparked a burst of jeering: no one was ever promoted from the student em-ployee pool. Ever since the Department of Defense had commandeered Mt. Nebo last fall, for “government service” (due to the coming “Great Alignment” on Dec. 21st), observatory staff had become little more than hourly hirelings—among the lowest-paid PhDs and MAs on earth. (“But good enough for government work!” as they often re-minded each other).
No more exploration of the stars, no more study of distant galaxies, only what the D.O.D. told them to observe—and that was “The Dark Rift,” the gaping void at the center of their own galaxy. As a result, the initials D.O.D. were anathema at Mt. Nebo, and the word “government” was always uttered with a certain glottal sound.
Connors saluted his fellow hirelings and continued down the hall to his cell, mut-tering “Work, work, work . . .”
“Is for jerk, jerk, jerks,” the Assistant Director, Cyndi Malach, said as he entered the laser cubicle. She’d been waiting for him.
“Oh, Cyndi,” he said, taken aback. “I mean, Doctor Malach.”
“Save it, Rock Em.” It was her favorite nickname for him, from the 1960s toy. She’d bestowed it on him the night he rescued her from The Groper at Rockitt’s. The only other name she had for him was “redneck,” which, at least, was accurate. “We’re long past formalities, don’t you think?” she added.
“Sure,” he said. “I mean, it’s not like we’re strangers or anything. Yuppie.”
“Caveman,” she returned. “I haven’t forgotten,” she added, with just the hint of a grin flirting with one corner of her mouth. “I still say, for a redneck laser-geek, you’re the best kisser I’ve ever met.”
Oh boy . . . Why bring that up now? Yeah, so they’d kissed—once—five years ago. His reward for rescuing her from The Groper. But she’d told him then it could never be, that she was too old for him, from too different a background. So he’d em-braced archeology, gone to Israel for two years to forget about her and that was that. Now this?
“Yes, well, er,” he said, with his usual eloquence. “That’s . . . very nice.”
She gave him a coolly appraising glance—which only made her look more Arabic or In-dian, or Whatever, more sultry than any observatory A.D. had a right to be.
“Your heart seems bowed down,” she said, sounding oddly like a fortune-teller. “As if you’d just lost your best friend.”
“Bingo,” he said. “If your best friend happens to be photos of space debris.”
“I see,” she said, though David couldn’t imagine how.
“Well, it’s probably time for me to get to—”
“Work?” she scoffed. “You? That’s a laugh. You do nothing but zap insects all night. I know: I’ve seen you.”
David’s stomach plummeted. She’d seen him? He had no clue anyone even knew about it—let alone seen him doing it.
“Hey, someone’s gotta keep the mosquitoes at bay,” he tried.
“There are no mosquitoes here in December.”
“OK, wasps then.”
“Moths?” he tried. “Dung beetles? D.O.D. Inspectors? Look, it’s my one eccen-tricity,” he said. “Don’t fire me, Cyn. Not yet.”
“Oh, you have something bigger in mind?” she teased. “Zapping an asteroid, per-haps, or space aliens? What are you, the Buck Rodgers of Northern Virginia?”
“Well. That would be good enough for government work,” he replied.
“You have a point,” she allowed. “But if you wear a hat, maybe no one will notice. Now, how about making some guide stars for me? Or is that asking too much?”
“You know, I resemble this whole line of questioning,” Dave said. “I don’t work here, dammit, I just work here.”
“Please.” She turned away, produced an actual clipboard and began recording in-strument readings from the monitors in David’s cell. “You’re too busy target-practicing to find time for work.”
“Hey, I only zap—er, eliminate pests—during down time,” he replied. “Between lasering your guide stars. Besides,” he continued, “do you really think of this as work? Sitting on your can all night in an air-conditioned office, fiddle-farting around on la-sers? That’s not work, that’s play.”
“Yeah, right. I’ll bet you don’t even know what LASER stands for.”
“You mean, Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation?”
“Oooh, you are Buck Rogers. Company Man.”
“Damn straight I’m Company Man,” Dave said. “I’d volunteer to work here.”
“I’d pay to work here.”
“Bull. You just like my legs.”
“Guilty!” he admitted, with a laugh. OK, so he still liked Cyndi. A lot. And, al-though they had shared one kiss that night at Rockitt’s, there hadn’t been anything but chemistry between them since. Not just because of the age difference, but the cultural divide; her parents were Old School Hindus or Whatever, and would vapor-lock.
Still, for the 40-year-old daughter of same, Cyndi was . . . pretty hot. And sharp. And while many of their co-workers found her aloof and vaguely spooky, to Dave’s mind the world could use more Cyndi Malachs—a lot more. She was an angel.
“So, the prisoner admits his guilt,” she said, her gaze never leaving the monitor. “Your sentence is . . . one drink after work. Avec moi. But only one.”
“I’d love to, Cyn, but—”
“Silence! The prisoner refuses to comply. Punishment: remove what’s left of his manhood.”
“You’ll have to get ‘em back from the D.O.D. first.”
“Ha! He admits the government has his yarbles. Confession!”
“Confession,” he agreed.
“Very well. Enough of this gay banter,” she said. “Make me some guide stars.”
“Zen ze zappingk of inzects,” he said. “Hey, how’s that for alliteration? Zen ze zappingk of inzects?”
“You certainly are alliterate,” she said. “No, after that, the Azziztant Director goes home. To bed.”
David, still in the swing of things, almost blurted out “Alone?” but thought better. Instead, he returned to his work, aware of a squeezing sensation in his chest. Just the jail cell of his heart, keeping him prisoner. Still. He hadn’t been close to anyone else since.
In the years since their brief kiss, Dave and Cyndi had forged a professional, yet friendly, bond. He counted on her to find even the most obscure objects in the night’s sky, and she relied on him for multiple guide stars, at varying elevations, from the dif-ferent lasers on hand.
They worked extremely well together, like a two-person volleyball team, though their “net” was now only The Dark Rift. Uncle Sam seemed to be expecting something to come out of it, so . . . they were doomed to watch it. Ridiculous.
And, yes, dammit, she did have nice legs. Scratch that, she had great legs—and a figure to match: curves that just didn’t quit, busty yet toned, with a trim, hourglass waist; long, silky, black hair; big, brown, bedroom eyes and—
—and who-o-o-oa, David, knock it off. Way off. What the hell was he thinking about? He was a laser-geek; she was a full-fledged PhD and Assistant Director of the observatory. And drop-dead gorgeous. Besides, there were plenty of other women who seemed to enjoy his company of a cold winter’s night. If only he could say the same for them . . .
But none of them were Cyndi. Every time he looked at her, he heard Stevie Won-der’s “That Girl.” The sandy, soulful voice against the backdrop of those deep, rich keyboards nearly knocked his moorings loose whenever he heard it—or saw Cyndi.
She looked like a Middle Eastern belly dancer, or a gypsy fortune-teller, with her coal-black hair and flashing eyes, her dark complexion and lush, seductive figure. She always wore tasteful, yet tight-fitting clothes and big hoop earrings, which only em-phasized the gypsy effect. It didn’t help that her background was so mysterious.
Rumor had it she’d escaped an abusive marriage in some Muslim country, and was being hunted by a jealous sheik. Others claimed she was an operative for the Israeli Mossad, and that her real name wasn’t “Cyndi Malach” at all. And still others insisted she was the daughter of a wealthy Romanian family (gypsies!), who’d run away as a teen.
Whatever the truth might be, she was unquestionably dangerous. Dave knew that spending even one night with her could spell disaster for him, so . . . maybe it was for the best they were just friends. Besides, he wasn’t a walking teenaged hor-mone anymore; he was almost 30 now. Not exactly old, certainly, but . . . time was catching up to him. Testosterone’s tyranny would soon be a memory, as the big head finally took command.
“Oh, speaking of commands . . .” he said.
Cyndi, still jotting down notes, leaned toward him. “Yeh-h-hs?”
“You’ll never guess what I saw in the Sinai last week.”
“Hmm, let’s see,” she replied. “Something vaguely Commandment-ish?”
“I’ll even bet there were . . . oh, I dunno . . . ten of them?”
“Yeah, yeah, so you’ve seen the news.” He turned from his monitor and pushed his chair closer to her. “I meant what I noticed. Personally.”
Cyndi stopped jotting notes and turned to look him in the eye. “What do you mean, what you noticed? Personally?”
“About the Commandments themselves,” he whispered. “The symbols used.”
Cyndi blinked. “Ancient Hebrew, aren’t they?”
David smiled and shook his head. “Guess again.”
“OK . . . Polish? Rastafarian?”
“Nice try. No, what I noticed,” he said, glancing at the cubicle entrance behind them, “is that the Commandments symbols look just like the ones on the Roswell de-bris.”
“The what debris?”
“Roswell, Roswell. You know. UFO crashes in 1947, debris found by local ranch-er, Army confirms they’ve found part of a ‘flying disc,’ then covers it up next day with a ‘weather balloon’ story.”
“Oh,” Cyndi said. “That Roswell.”
“And it made me wonder: if the Ten Commandments and the Roswell symbols are in the same language, wouldn’t that mean God was a . . .” He shrugged.
“A what?” Cyndi asked, as she resumed writing. “A weather balloon?”
“Hey, good enough for government work,” he said. “But, really, wouldn’t you con-sider proof of God’s true identity just a tad mind-blowing?”
“Of course not. He made the place, right? Bound to have left His fingerprints around here somewhere. Besides,” she added, “I don’t need proof.”
“Well, that certainly makes one of us.” This wasn’t going at all the way he’d hoped. He’d wanted to impress Cyndi, for some reason, but was failing miserably. Probably best to just get back to work and—
“So, you don’t believe in God?” she asked, turning to face him again.
“Not since I turned twelve and sprouted a brain. Don’t tell me you do.”
No reply, save a subtle arching of an eyebrow.
“Oh, come on, Cyn . . . The Invisible Man in the Sky? Watching everything we do? I’d sooner believe Von Däniken or Sitchin. At least their theories offer comic re-lief.”
“Theories?” she said. “Oh, you mean like the ones in ‘Chariots of the Gods?’ Or ‘The Twelfth Planet?’ Ancient Aliens? The Anunnaki?”
“Hey, highly advanced aliens bumping into Stone Age man and playing ‘god’ isn’t all that far-fetched. I mean, we can’t be the only sentient life-form in the universe.”
“You mean intelligent life-form.”
“Mmm-no, I wouldn’t go that far,” Dave said. “But think for a sec: the universe is, what, fourteen billion years old? And the earth is maybe four or five billion? It only stands to reason there are other planets much older than ours.”
“So, their civilizations would also be older—perhaps billions of years ahead of ours. To us, their technology would certainly seem godlike. Think about the cargo cults of the South Pacific after World War II. Or any primitive tribe when visited by so-called ‘modern technology.’ What do they invariably do? They worship it . . . or try to eat it.”
“‘Take, eat; this is my body,’” she quoted, “‘this do in remembrance of me.’”
“Exactly. And what about those descriptions of ‘God’ in Genesis or Exodus? Sure sound like UFO encounters to me. At least, they did the last time I read them.”
“At twelve, you mean? When you were sprouting your alleged brain?”
“Yeah, I read everything back then. When I was still looking for answers.”
“Answers? To what?”
Dave shrugged. “You know. Why life for most people is so brutal, brief and mean-ingless. Why man is so stupid, suicidal and full of crap. That sort of thing.”
“Bet you’re fun at parties.”
“And such sanctimonious crap, too,” he continued. “What did Mark Twain say? ‘Man is the only creature with the ability to blush—or the need to.’”
“And you think the notion of God-as-Alien explains all that?”
“Makes more sense than religion. Just look at the world we live in. Is this really the crowning achievement of a Supreme Being? Seems more like the work of a cranky of-fice temp. No, it’s clearly an accident—a biological mishap in some backwater of the cosmos, with Man as evolutionary detour. Nothing more.”
“Perfect,” she replied. “An Existentialist poet with just enough hope left to com-plain. A Nietzsche with hemorrhoids.”
“Hey, I resemble that remark. But at least the ‘Ancient Aliens’ theory makes some sense. And there are plenty of out-of-place artifacts to back it up.”
“Oh, no, not OOPArts,” Cyndi groaned. “OK, then, let’s have it: your favorites. But make it quick; we’ve got work to do.”
“OK, how about Baalbek and its Trilithon stones? Three perfectly cut, 1000-ton blocks—stones so huge even modern cranes can’t move them. Yet we’re supposed to believe ancient Man quarried, carried, and set them perfectly into place 6,000 years ago? Yeah, right. Or what about the Abydos Hieroglyphs—3,000-year-old Egyptian tomb carvings of a helicopter, a submarine, a modern jet and a flying sau-cer? I mean, how do you account for that?”
“Crypto-archeology . . .” She shook her head. “David, you surprise me. It’s just plain bad archeology, you should know that. Shoddy scholarship and shaky conclu-sions all wrapped up in a conspiracy-theory play set. Please . . . tell me you know bet-ter.”
“But I don’t know better,” he said. “The world’s loaded with such artifacts—but because mainstream science can’t explain them, they’re dismissed as ‘bad archeol-ogy?’”
“So, God’s still not good enough for you?” she asked. “You have to go in for this crypto-babble?”
“No, I just don’t believe any all-powerful, all-knowing ‘god’ is watching over us. The idea’s childish, like believing in a Super-Santa on steroids. But at least Mr. Claus wasn’t a hypocrite—a psalm-singing, serial-killing psychopath.”
Cyndi shook her head, her long, raven-black hair swinging over her hoop earrings, yet her laugh was light and silvery as the moon.
“Oh, my. Why not tell us how you really feel,” she said. “David, you of all people should have at least some faith,” Cyndi replied. “You covered the Oded Expedition; you saw them find the Ten Commandments—the original tablets—the ones carved by God. And still you don’t believe?”
“All I believe,” he said, “is that the Commandments symbols are extremely similar to those on the Roswell debris, that’s all. Dr. Oded himself agreed with me.”
“He was probably just humoring you.” Cyndi took a seat in the room’s only other chair, then leaned back and crossed her (very) shapely legs. She was wearing a skirt under her white lab coat, along with heels and black hose, which Dave tried not to notice. “So, let me get this straight: you can believe in little green men from space but not in God, right? Or you believe God’s an alien?”
“Well . . . yeah. That’s what I wanted to reveal in my article—that the similarity between those two sets of symbols indicates that God is, in all probability, a—”
“A weather-balloon, yes, I know,” she said. “And your proof?”
Dave felt the floor of his stomach drop away, and his heart fall right through it.
“I . . . lost my proof,” he said. “My debris photos. Someone stole them.”
“Uh huh. And the ‘debris’ itself?”
Dave was actually blushing now. “The owner is . . . also missing. Vanished.”
“I see,” she said. “So, what you’ve got are a few photographs of the Ten Com-mandments, along with some missing photos of ‘extremely similar’ symbols on this Roswell debris. But you can’t prove any of this because the owner of said debris is also missing. Is that about right?”
Dave didn’t reply; he thought she’d summed it up pretty well. Then drove home the final nail: “So, what you believe in is Chariots of the Gods meets The Twelfth Planet in Nietzsche’s bidet, right?”
“Exactly. No—I mean, yes. I mean . . . ah, hell, I don’t know.”
Just then, some Navy brass strutted past the door of their cubicle: one Lt. Commander and two Captains, followed by a retinue of Mt. Nebo geeks. Which ended any further conversation with Cyndi: she left the laser room and followed them down the hall while Dave turned back to his monitor, thoroughly pissed at himself.
He shouldn’t have slammed Cyndi’s beliefs like that; it was uncalled for. But he couldn’t help it. Intelligent people—people he admired—clinging to such childish nonsense always brought out the skeptic in him, the Voice of Reason. The Man of Logic.
Logic my crypto-babble ass, he thought. He would have to make it up to her. Dave prized Cyndi’s friendship and didn’t want to lose it quibbling over the existence of “God.” He was about to slap himself when her voice, soft as an angel’s wing, floated back through the open door: “Oh, by the way . . .”
“Yeah?” He leaned back in his chair and turned to face her.
“I think I know someone who can help you. With the Roswell end.”
“Say what?” He scooted his chair forward.
“The Roswell debris,” she added. “I have a friend who told me he once saw it, too, many years ago. I think he even sketched it.”
Dave tried to smile. “You know, there are better ways to tease me . . .”
“No tease, Rock Em. He’s an old friend of mine, a physics professor at Washing-ton U. His secret hobby is UFO trace evidence. I’ve got his card here somewhere.” She produced a purse, rummaged in it, then pulled a winner from her wallet. “Here.”
It was this she’d left his office for, not the geeks. She’d gone all the way down the hall to her office for this card. And a weird-looking thing it was, too: a black business card with a silver etching of a telescope and stars, along with the name “Ross Galilei, PhD,” an Alexandria address and phone number.
“Thanks, Cyn.” (UFO trace evidence?) Flaky to be sure, but since when did that ever stop him? Besides, if this Galilei had a sketch of the Roswell symbols, he might still salvage the Ten Commandments/Roswell angle. And the Pulitzer.
“Oh, one last thing,” Cyndi said.
“If this evidence of yours is for real . . .”
“It is,” he stated.
“Then you could become . . . a target.”
“Oh, c’mon, Cyn,” he said. “Please. Be mellow or dramatic, but not both.”
“I’m serious. You’ll be in enough danger here, in the States. But once you return to Israel, you’ll be in their backyard.”
“Whoa. Who says I’m returning to Israel?” he asked.
“You have to. You have no choice.”
Dave smiled and leaned toward her, like a parent explaining something to a child.
“I don’t know if you’re aware of this, Cyn, but my boss is notoriously tight-fisted. Gorgeous, yes; brilliant, absolutely, but she can squeeze a penny till it screams. What makes you think she’ll cut me more time off?”
“Oh, I think she’ll manage,” she said. “Call it an early vacation—with pay. Be-sides,” Cyndi added, “she really has no choice, either.”
Dave grinned. “Quite the fatalist, aren’t you? No choice for anyone, huh?”
“None. And when you do go back, you’ll be in their sandbox. I’m not talking about the Israelis or the Palestinians or even Muslim terrorists. I’m talking about . . . the Neph—I mean, the Fallen Ones.”
The room seemed to fall a shade darker and the atmosphere hushed to a whisper. David felt the skin crawl up his back. “The which?”
“The Fallen Ones,” Cyndi repeated. “Former angels who fell from grace because of their lust for human women.”
Cyndi sighed and glanced at her wristwatch. “What time do you take dinner?”
“Take dinner? You mean, what time do I eat supper?”
“I would say ‘don’t be smart,’ but we don’t have to worry about that, do we?”
“Hilarious,” Dave said. “I ‘take dinner’ or whatever about nine, nine-thirty.”
“Then join me,” she said, stepping even closer to where he sat, her hips only inch-es from his face. “My treat. There’s much you have to learn, and very little time.”
“Really?” Dave replied, and that was all he replied. He swallowed hard, the lump in his throat matching the one in his pants. Any witty ripostes or repartee fell right through the hole in his brain: Cyndi Malach wants to take me to dinner or supper or whatever? My boss? In black stockings!?
Sometimes, Life In The Big City could be good, he reflected. It could be very good.
It could also be very over.
The winning name was drawn from a batch of over 6200 names from all over the Facebook world.
Everyone who either a) shared The God Key’s Facebook page with their friends OR b) bought a copy of the book from Amazon was automatically entered in the drawing. Naturally, those who spring for the book got two (2) entries for each book purchased, and one (1) entry for each time he or she shared the book’s Facebook page with friends. The result?
6,207 entries in just the past three weeks. That’s a LOTTA shares and a LOTTA books bought. Indeed, it’s A Whole Lotta Love (apologies to Led Zeppelin). The result?
ONE WINNING NAME WAS DRAWN AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT, Friday, 12-21-2012 (with that many slips of paper, we had to abandon the hat or turban idea and used a USPS shipping box instead). And the winner is…(drum roll, please)
… Mr. Naren Sai, of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India!
Congratulations, Naren! Look for your Koummya dagger in two to four weeks, depending on holiday mail traffic (here in the U.S., this is THE busiest time of year for the post office, so please be patient). Believe me, it’ll be worth the wait.
I enjoyed this contest so much, I think we simply have to hold another. THIS time, though, it’ll be a dagger featured in Book II: Tribulations, which is set in Latin America. We have a TON of very cool weapons to choose from in this region, including a few of my own (like the koummya, which is a 50+ year-old antique). I’ve a few Mexican and other Latin American relics in my collection that would have the average knife-collector drooling, including:
Only a few of these are newer than 1965. Most are antiques. Some are even fairly valuable. But, like the antique 16-inch Koummya awarded to Mr. Naren Sai, all are eligible. I don’t mind giving them away, one at a time. Hey, if it increases the sales of my books, who am I to complain, right?
Right. So . . . onward and upward. Here are just a few of the Latin American and Mexican blades I have for the next contest:
All right, so I couldn’t choose just ONE. All the knives at left (and, yes, yes, my Mexican Bowies, too) will be eligible for the Book II drawing. I have to limit the selection just my relevant bowie knives (about 10-12) and my machetes from the region (3-4). After that, we’re looking at Book III: Armageddon Outta Here . . .
Congratulations, again, to Naren Sai, on winning our first Dagger Drawing, and let’s set our caps forward for Book II: Tribulation.
Yours in Apocalypse Gravy,
Yeah, yeah so the much ballyhooed 21st of December is next Friday. So what? What’s all the rumpus, anyway?
Nothing much, really. NASA scientists say we have nothing to fear: no “supermassive black hole” is going to suck us into the cosmic vacuum bag. The world isn’t about to flip on its axis and dump us all into oblivion. And the dreaded End of Days is just another Schwarzenegger movie.
All undoubtedly, probably, logically true. But….what if?
What if the scientists are wrong? It’s happened before. Plenty of times. What if officialdom is a bit too eager to poo-poo notions of a looming Apocalypse? What’s the worst that could happen?
Johnny Maestro? A remake of “Call Me Maybe?” Or another season of “Honey Boo Boo?”
Nothing so alarming, friends. Sanity will prevail, the earth will retain its rightful tilt, axis and rotation as it continues its orbit around the sun. Sure, there may be some particularly playful solar flares and meteor showers (thanks, Gemenid) this go round, but nothing apocalyptic. The Maya certainly didn’t think so.
So, go ahead and throw a little Doomsday party on the 21st, or dress up like Kukulkan (just in case he does return) and prepare yourself for more of the same nail-biting, hysterical hoopla that surrounded Y2K (Remember that? When all computers were supposed to glitch out on New Year’s 2000 because of the two-digit year code, resulting in planes tumbling from the sky, power grid outages and yet another “hanging chad” count in the Florida election returns?)
Again, nothing so alarming. I promise. Honest Injun.
(and, no, I’m not a lawyer, a politician or a used-car salesman; I’m just another ink-stained wretch pecking away in the hinterlands).
And on THAT you have my word.