….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.
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.”
* * *
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.
We’re going to pump two (2) chapters of the book onsite today, Chaps. 3 & 4. I missed on Sunday, being too determinedly under the weather to do much of anything. Seems some sneaky, slithering flu bug is assailing us here at the Ancient Astronaut Petting Zoo, so a double helping is what’s called for.
Thursday: Chapter 5, in which Maggie gets her oats.
TGK I: Return of the Nephilim
Chapters 3 & 4
By Sunday night, time was running out and Dave knew it.
He tried not to think about the (break-in after all), theft of his Roswell photos, tried instead to think of ways to replace them. But with Rosalind Brazille erased from the face of the earth, that hope was stolen, as well. And now it was time for work. The back-burner was filling up fast. Not with hot stew, but tepid leftovers.
And he still had to call his old friend with the news. But how? How could he tell Dr. Oded he’d loused it up on this end? LOST the Roswell debris photos—the proof? Even though he’d emailed three shots of the Commandments symbols to Will Durant, in New York, they meant diddly without the Roswell pics. And now he had to break the news to the most important, influential figure in his life. But how?
Only one way.
He picked up the phone and called him. In Israel. It would cost a fortune, but such was life. Salt in the wound, he guessed.
The connection sucked, as usual, thanks to those damned sunspots or solar storms or whatever the hell was going on up there, 93 million miles away. Still, he was at least able to re-establish contact with the good doctor, confess his loss of the crucial debris photos and communicate the one salve in his wound: at least his editor, Mr. Durant, got the shots of the Ten Commandments slabs. Which was something.
“Well, we mustn’t lost hope,” Oded told him, over the crackling, time-lagged connection. “His having the Commandments photos is a blessing, my son. We can replace the . . .” (static, snap-crackle-pop! phone crispies . . . ) “ . . . -well photos. Thanks to today’s high-tech, cutting-edge digital equipment, why, we might just pull it off yet. Try to be more positive.”
Dave assured him he would, that he’d continue digging on his end. Until he found replacements, though, this was as far as his Scoop of the Century! would go. He was about to ask Oded when his lecture tour would begin, when the phone sizzled with gamma rays or cosmic pixie dust and finally crapped out, dropping the connection.
“Hi-tech,” He said to the phone. “Cutting-edge.”
Later, as he pulled out of his parking lot, Dave thought he’d try to call work, to make sure local connections were still a possibility, and to see if it was OK to come in so early. In a normal job, of course, this wouldn’t be a problem: most employers were only too happy to see the peons show up early. But his was no “normal” job, and with the Department of Defense, well . . . you never knew.
Once more, his cell phone failed (damn sunspots were getting worse by the hour), so he drove to a gas station on Van Dorn and the last public phone booth in Old Town.
And all the way, as he parked, made his call, then resumed his drive to work, he couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was following him, watching him. Clocking his every move.
Old Town Alexandria was a cramped, rabbit-warren of pre-Colonial cobblestone streets, with alleys and cul de sacs older than America itself. Dave had toured its antique lanes many times. Yet, despite his visits to the inner sanctums of Old Town, despite having lived and worked in the area most of his life, he still didn’t know all the side streets and cubbyholes of his adopted home town.
But someone sure did. And that someone was following him, watching him. He could feel it. His father’s Irish blood had given him a half-mad Celtic intuition that occasionally gibbered in his ear—and often proved right. This vaguely paranoiac sense stayed with him the rest of the night, like a distant warning bell tolling in his head.
The car that had been shadowing him, a small, black sports car with government plates, was sitting outside Mt. Nebo Observatory that night. The driver and his two passengers—a big, blond military type with a crew-cut, and a silent, faceless silhouette in the backseat—seemed only mildly interested in their surroundings, or their quarry.
They knew Connors was working away in there, knew the layout of his workplace and his apartment, of course. Knew how to get in and out without being seen. Even knew where he’d hidden his Roswell photos, in his bedroom, though he’d never find them now. They also knew one other thing.
David Connors would not survive tomorrow.
While, for others, tomorrow would never come at all.
Early the following morning, Israeli Police finally found the scattered remains of the missing Yitzhak Globus, PhD, in the Sinai Desert. The smaller bits—the hands, feet and genitals—had been devoured by various animals. The largest chunks, however—the head and upper torso—were recovered from a shallow grave just east of the Sinai border, only five miles north of Eilat, site of the recent Hilton murders.
Partially mummified from the desert sand and heat, the mangled corpse revealed several signs that were becoming familiar to IPD detectives of late. Like the bodies of Dr. Sarah Mills and her assistant, Amir, Dr. Globus had been stabbed repeatedly at the base of his skull and neck, leaving the flesh flayed in a series of meaty, triangular strips. And, as with the Eilat Hilton victims, Globus’s wounds contained particles of ancient bronze.
Autopsy revealed the familiar ripping of the spinal cord from the vertebral sheath. Same wounds, M.O., and signature as the previous attacks, though the level of savagery had increased—typical in serial killings. Even the reek of rotting meat was the same.
What was different in this case was the Medical Examiner. Since Dr. Globus’s remains were found outside Eilat city limits, a different M.E. performed the autopsy, a new pair of eyes. And they saw a new, and far more disturbing, clue that the first M.E. had missed: the reason for the exposure of the spinal cord.
It appeared the murderer was removing spinal fluid from the victims. It had either been drawn out by needle or . . .
. . . or sucked out. By mouth.
Which, even for the Middle East, was pretty sick.
And the capital of sickness in the world, in terms of serial murder? None other than Israel’s longtime friend and ally, the U.S. of A., which seemed to manufacture serial killers (and particularly depraved ones, at that) as plentifully as the desert sand.
Inspector Schriever was now keener than ever to talk with his prime
suspect—the American who had fled the Eilat Hilton last Saturday morning, following the first two murders and the kidnapping/murder of Dr. Globus.
And that was David Connors.
He would send Heim to the U.S. immediately. No way he’d waste time with extradition. And no way he’d allow the Americans to bungle it. No, an IPD man would handle this. A competent, capable and, yes, persuasive IPD man: Sgt. Heim.
Along with two agents of the Mossad.
And no one was more persuasive than they.
Well, almost no one.
One man on the planet would have argued the point: the Kabbalist. As a lifelong practitioner of the obscure and forbidden Babylonian Kabbalah, the old necromancer was acquainted with many dark and influential entities. Indeed, he personally knew of one far more persuasive than even the most ruthless Mossad.
He nodded at his assassin as he allowed him into the cellars of Bene Ha-Elohim Museum, in Jerusalem’s Old City. These underground vaults—some many centuries old—served as the museum’s long-term storage. They were ideal: vast, cavernous, gloomy rooms packed with antiquities, crates, pallets and shadows. It was toward the latter that the Kabbalist directed his servant. His assassin. His killer.
Killer of all those who would divulge the Nephilim’s secrets: all those who had seen the Ten Commandments. All those who might learn of their likeness to other, more recent symbols scattered about the globe. If anyone ever put them together and drew the inevitable conclusion, then all was lost.
Their return would be hindered, perhaps stopped. Man would be warned and all his weapons of war trained on the Abandoned, the Betrayed . . . the Fallen. And the Kabbalist would rather die first. Indeed, it would probably come to that one day, he knew.
For now, though, Fortune was with him: he was down to four. After the two at the Eilat Hilton and poor old Globus, only four people remained who’d actually seen the Commandments: 1) Dr. Oded, of course; 2) Tamara Schnurr, the Hebrew U. lab tech who would be testing the slabs that week; 3) Will Durant, editor of the execrable World News Weekly; and 4) his erstwhile scribbler, David Connors. Though 6,000 miles away, Connors and Durant wouldn’t pose a problem; the Kabbalist knew just where to find them. After that, no witnesses, no warning. And no more inconvenient photographs.
No fear of warnings or witnesses tonight, though. Even if passersby did see the Kabbalist with his friend, they would assume he was simply an old rabbi helping a poor, deformed, homeless man find sanctuary. Nothing more.
The goat he’d brought in earlier had made a terrible mess on the floor, and was now cowering in a corner, bleating. The old wizard frowned at the animal, though he knew it would soon trouble him no more. His assassin must dine, after all; it must have sustenance—daily. Nightly. Whenever it could.
He allowed his companion in, then showed it to the goat, whose stupid, slit-pupil eyes were now darting and rolling as its bleating reached fever pitch.
And when the thing laid its “hands” on the goat’s neck and chopped, and sucked, the Kabbalist felt his stomach lurch and he turned his face away. He could never bring himself to watch this part.
What it did to the animal next was an abomination.