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Son of perdition, p.20
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       Son of Perdition, p.20

           Wendy Alec
 
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Then he steadied the camera.

  * * *

  Adrian walked back into the lift just as one of Guber’s soldiers reached out his hand to the Ark.

  Guber raised his hand to stop him, but it was too late.

  The man fell to the floor like a stone. Electrocuted.

  Adrian smiled faintly.

  Guber nodded to a group of soldiers standing at attention.

  ‘Use the winch,’ he said.

  The men turned their attention to the second crate. It bore a seal which Nick recognised – a menorah with a Hebrew inscription. The insignia of Mossad.

  * * *

  Nick, his hands shaking, sat cross-legged on the carpet. He tried for the fifth time to email the camera memory file through to Dylan Weaver.

  ‘Busy,’ he muttered in frustration and tried again.

  * * *

  As the electrocuted officer’s body was being stuffed into a body bag, Guber’s walk-talkie buzzed.

  ‘What is it, Von Slagel?’ Guber said curtly.

  ‘It seems there is a visitor in the East Wing.’

  ‘Impossible.’

  ‘He’s sending unauthorized information out of the grounds. It appears the low-lying parasite is more astute than you gave him credit for.’

  Guber turned to Travis.

  ‘Cut the circuitry,’ he said, unholstering his Sig Sauer P225 semi-automatic pistol. ‘I’ll take care of him myself.’

  ‘You’d better. His Excellency is most displeased.’

  There was a hesitation on the end of the line.

  ‘De Vere wears the Nazarene’s Seal.’

  * * *

  Nick froze. The sound of thudding footsteps was drawing nearer through the corridors of the East Wing.

  Frantically, he uploaded the digital film into his laptop and punched in Weaver’s encrypted email address for the ninth time. There was a loud knocking on the secured East Wing entrance.

  He pressed the send button.

  ‘De Vere – I know you’re in there,’ Guber shouted.

  The banging became more violent.

  ‘Use the charges,’ Guber’s voice filtered through to Nick.

  The email started to upload as Nick heard Guber shouting instructions in German.

  He watched as this time the file uploaded successfully into cyberspace.

  Then he pressed delete.

  Delete. Delete. Delete.

  He was painstakingly deleting single photographs from the hard drive as the door was blasted open.

  * * *

  Guber flung open the back entrance of the Abbey church and shoved Nick up the nave towards Adrian, who stared at his struggling younger brother.

  He looked back down at the restraints on Nick’s wrists.

  ‘Release my brother,,’ Adrian said softly.

  Guber scowled. Grudgingly he unlocked the steel handcuffs.

  Nick dusted himself off, glaring at Guber.

  ‘Nicky,’ Adrian said, ‘I thought you’d already left. Your car went through the gates this afternoon. It was verified.’

  ‘You mean you checked?’ Nick glared at him.

  ‘He was hidden in the East Wing.’ Guber scowled. ‘Watching, or rather filming the proceedings.’ He held up Nick’s camera.

  Nick raised his face to Adrian’s.

  ‘You’re a thief, Adrian!’ he muttered through clenched teeth, all fear suddenly lost in his outrage. ‘A common thief. The Ark of the Covenant, for God’s sake!’

  Tears of rage pricked his eyes and he struck out blindly, hitting Adrian in the chest.

  Adrian stared at Nick in disbelief, as a violent electrical shock wave surged through his body. Lorcan De Molay was right. His little brother wore the Seal.

  He loosened his tie, sweat breaking out on his forehead. It was undeniable. He had felt the power of the Nazarene in Nick’s hand.

  Nick was unaware of the force he possessed, of that Adrian was certain. It needed to stay that way.

  Adrian stared straight back at Nick, not a muscle of his face moving.

  ‘The Ark’s a sacred relic, Adrian,’ Nick cried. ‘It belongs to the world’s heritage, for God’s sake – you can’t own it . . . ’

  Adrian grasped Nick’s arm in a vice-like grip. ‘Calm down, Nick, you’re making a fool of yourself.’

  Nick jerked his arm free. ‘All this power has gone to your head. You’ve just stolen the most coveted archaeological antiquity in the world, and you want me to calm down. It’s not yours to take – or buy – or steal. It belongs in a museum!’ Nick yelled, totally out of control and not caring.

  Adrian stared fiercely into his eyes.

  ‘It belongs . . . ’ Adrian took a deep breath ‘ . . . to the Jews.’

  He gestured to his right and slowly Nick turned.

  The lights triggered on. Nick could make out around fifty elegantly attired men and women sitting at sumptuously decorated tables across the length of the transept, all staring at him in silence.

  He looked back at Adrian in confusion. Adrian put his right arm paternally around Nick’s shoulders.

  ‘My brother is an archaeologist.’

  He placed his left thumb in the small of Nick’s back and pushed him forward.

  ‘A brilliant archaeologist. He pours out his entire life on the quest for antiquities such as the one in our midst. A little understanding tonight, please, ladies and gentlemen.’

  Adrian pulled Nick aside as the dignitaries murmured among themselves.

  Nick looked at him in utter bewilderment.

  Adrian motioned to the guests.

  ‘Levin.’

  An elderly statesmanlike figure with a mane of coarse white hair rose to his feet, followed by a fashionably dressed olive-skinned man in his early forties who stepped forward and put out his hand to Nick. Nick instantly recognized him.

  Adrian nodded. ‘Daniel Rabin – Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations.’

  Rabin shook Nick’s hand.

  ‘Moishe Levin – President of Israel.’

  The old patriarch bowed slightly.

  Nick rubbed his forehead with his palm, suddenly exhausted. He recognized Levin, the dignified ex-Israeli general, from the Jerusalem Post. One by one, he scanned the faces in the room.

  He recognized three Pentagon senior generals, the British Prime Minister, the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Director of the CIA and the President of the Council of Foreign Relations.

  Adrian gestured to a second table. Seated there were the three eldest sons of the Lombardi Banking Dynasty and their father, Raffaello Lombardi; Naotake Yoshido, Chairman of Japan’s Yoshido Banking Dynasty and Xavier Chessler, now Chairman of the World Bank – James De Vere’s closest friend and Jason’s godfather.

  Nick sighed. Half these people had been his father’s close friends and associates for years.

  Adrian gently directed Nick to one of the largest tables near the window.

  ‘Gentlemen, I would like to introduce my brother – Nicholas De Vere.’

  ‘King Faisal of Jordan, Jotapa’s elder brother.’ Nick looked through him. Adrian steered him around. ‘The Russian President, the Crown Prince of Iran, the President of Syria. All the major participants in the Ishtar Treaty are our guests tonight.’

  Levin touched Nick’s shoulder.

  ‘The second phase of the Mid-East Accord demands that Israel denuclearizes over a seven-year period,’ the old man said in a guttural Israeli accent. ‘We demanded an equally high price for our participation in the negotiations with the terrorists.’

  Adrian nodded to Levin to continue.

  ‘The return of our nation’s most sacred possession,’ Levin’s eyes gleamed with fervour, ‘that once belonging to our Monarch King David – the Ark of the Covenant.’

  Rabin stepped forward.

  ‘Our government has been searching for it for generations – spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the Temple Mount. It was discovered ten days ago, then stolen by mercenaries in the pay of terroris
ts bent on destroying our nation.’

  Levin grasped Nick’s upper arm. ‘Your mother has been a good friend to Israel, Nicholas. She never forgot her roots.’ He looked deeply into Nick’s eyes. ‘Neither has your brother.’

  ‘We made your brother’s life extremely difficult.’ Rabin smiled gently at Nick. ‘We demanded nothing less than the return of the Temple Mount – the most controversial piece of real estate the world has ever known – and the return of the Ark.’

  Rabin looked to Adrian, who nodded.

  ‘The Ark will be transported back to Jerusalem under Mossad’s protection tonight. Your elder brother is a miracle worker!’

  Levin shook his right forefinger in Nick’s face.

  ‘In return for Israel’s agreement to denuclearize, six weeks ago, at a top-secret summit, your brother drew up the “Concordat of King Solomon”, to be initiated on 7 January 2022.’

  Rabin, the Israeli UN ambassador, continued. ‘The Concordat is modelled on the Lateran Treaty which ended an intense dispute that began in 1871 when the newly-constituted Kingdom of Italy took over Rome after centuries of papal rule.’

  Rabin hesitated. ‘Your brother, with his customary brilliance, drew up a similar concordat. An agreement in which Israel will declare unilaterally, by virtue of its sovereignty, that it is granting a special status to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock sanctuary on the Temple Mount.’

  Adrian smiled modestly. ‘Each of the three great monotheistic religions will rule autonomously over the edifices sacred to them,’ he explained. ‘Israel will grant “free right of passage to the holy places regardless of religion, gender or race”.’

  ‘It is a move that we believe will be unanimously accepted by the international community,’ Levin said, ‘and Israel reverts back to her boundaries of 1967 – Jerusalem undivided.’

  He motioned to the presidents of Syria and Iran.

  ‘In return for Israel’s solemn assurance to engage in the first stage of denuclearization over a period of seven years, our Arab brothers have agreed for a UN peacekeeping force to occupy the Temple Mount and secure Israel’s boundaries.’

  ‘And they have agreed to our rebuilding of Solomon’s Temple in the Northern Quadrant,’ Rabin added.

  Adrian turned to Nick. ‘We announce the first stage of Israel’s nuclear disarmament on 7 January at the signing of the treaty in Babylon.

  ‘You see, Nicholas,’ Adrian said, softly. ‘I’m the good guy.’

  Levin shrugged his shoulders and raised both his palms.

  ‘To denuclearize – is it such a terrible price for the Ark of the Covenant?’

  At Adrian’s signal, Chastenay pressed a remote switch and an enormous plasma screen descended, showing a 360-degree animation of the architectural drawings of the new Solomon’s Temple.

  ‘But the massacre – on Temple Mount?’ Nick stared at Adrian, perplexed.

  Adrian took out a cigar from a silver case.

  ‘Terrorists who would thwart our plan and destroy the peace process.’ He rolled the cigar between his manicured fingers. ‘We had ways of retrieving the Ark.’

  ‘They could not stand to see Israel with its most sacred possession back in its hands,’ Levin said, shaking his head. ‘This is a day to be proud. Your brother is a great friend to our nation.’

  Adrian put his arm around Nick and walked him to the door.

  ‘But the . . . the UFO?’ Nick said.

  Adrian smiled as he guided Nick out into the hallway.

  ‘The Nazis were working on this form of sophisticated technology as far back as 1941, Nick. After World War II, Operation Paperclip brought hundreds of rocket experts, nuclear physicists and naval weaponeers to America. It led to the founding of NASA. Gerlach, Debus, Wernher Von Braun – they all continued their research. Anti-gravity propulsion, quantum physics, secret atomic research – the point is, everything’s perfectly rational, Nicholas.’

  Adrian’s expression changed.

  ‘Now you know that this is a classified summit, tell me – who did you email?’

  Nick rubbed his forehead. ‘No one. I’m sorry, Adrian, I’m not feeling too well. This has all been a bit much.’

  Adrian shifted his tone smoothly, instantly sympathetic.

  ‘Look, Nick, we know you’re sick. Stay in the East Wing through the weekend, then go on to join Mother. We can play indoor tennis. Swim. Like old times.’

  Nick shook his head. ‘Thanks. But I have to leave.’

  ‘Where’s your car?’

  ‘It’s parked in the Dock Bay.’

  ‘Chastenay – have someone bring the car to the front entrance. And where are my brother’s belongings?’

  Guber dumped Nick’s satchel and the contents of his pocket down on the hall table.

  There was no sign of the photograph of Julius De Vere and Adrian’s current house guests.

  Guber picked up Nick’s camera.

  ‘You realize, Nicholas, that we have no alternative but to confiscate your camera,’ Adrian said.

  He looked down at the silver cross lying on the mahogany tabletop and watched as Nick grasped it in trembling fingers. Adrian rubbed his hand over his chin, deep in thought.

  ‘See Mr De Vere through security,’ he added. ‘Phone me when you reach London, Nick.’

  Nick walked away without a look back.

  * * *

  Guber stared out of the second-floor hall window as the red Aston Martin sped out of the gates for the second time that day. Adrian walked up behind him.

  ‘He knows too much.’ Guber frowned.

  Adrian stubbed out his cigar slowly and deliberately in a silver ashtray.

  ‘It would seem that my little brother wears the Seal. Use the neuro-electromagnetic frequency weapons. They are untraceable. He flies from Dinard. Wait until the pass.’ Adrian stretched, then yawned.

  ‘Tell my father our problem is resolved.’

  * * *

  Nick screeched through the Mont St Michel causeway gate, the engine of the Aston Martin screaming, then scrolled down to the number for Lawrence St Cartier at the Monastery in Alexandria and dialled.

  There was a loud, insistent engaged tone. He clicked the phone off, then punched redial. The same flat tone reverberated through the car.

  ‘Primitive exchange,’ he muttered, and punched in a different number. The phone rang three times.

  ‘This is Jotapa, I’m sorry I’m not available . . . ’

  * * *

  Jotapa sat clutching her knees, rocking from side to side on the edge of the gilt four-poster bed. She stared at the flashing light on her phone, then reached for it.

  She read the black letters for the fifth time that hour.

  ‘Call barred’. She threw the phone onto the bed in frustration.

  * * *

  The vaulted ceilings of the Crypt of the North Wind under Mont St Michel soared a hundred feet upwards and were decorated with spectacular trompe l’oeils reminiscent of the indigos and heliotropes and soothing lilacs that Lucifer had loved so well in his Palace of Archangels in the First Heaven.

  At the far end of the crypt’s nave towered a colossal garnet altar, its surface covered with blazing black tapers sputtering their intense aroma of frankincense.

  The Ark of the Covenant lay gleaming on the altar. Adrian stood silently in the shadows watching Lorcan De Molay staring at the cherubim.

  He reached out his hand, almost hypnotized, to the beaten gold cherubim, then slowly withdrew it.

  Adrian approached De Molay. ‘The Ark will be transported at midnight to Jerusalem by the Sayeret Matkal. It will be held in the archaeological vaults under Jerusalem.’

  ‘Until the temple is complete,’ De Molay murmured. ‘Then it shall be restored to the Holy of Holies.’

  Slowly he circled the Ark.

  ‘And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall
come one that maketh desolate . . . ’

  He knelt before the Ark, his head resting against the garnet, muttering in a strange guttural tongue, neither of angels nor of men.

  ‘Then I crown myself King. In the Holy of Holies.’

  He raised his head to Adrian and smiled.

  ‘In Jerusalem.’

  * * *

  Nick had been driving for nearly an hour. He was dying to take a break but couldn’t afford to slow down. He knew his life was in danger.

  Two sets of car headlights appeared in the Aston Martin’s rear-view mirror. Frantically, he punched in Jason’s mobile number again. He waited.

  ‘This is Jason De Vere.’

  ‘C’mon – pick it up! Jason.’

  ‘I can’t take your call right now . . . ’

  * * *

  Jason sat at the marble table, his tuxedo jacket over the back of his chair, his shirt sleeves rolled up. He took a swig of whisky, then leant back as the vapid blonde delivered her monosyllabic thank-you speech at the bi-annual VOX music awards ceremony.

  He yawned, clapping half-heartedly.

  His phone vibrated, then lit up in cobalt blue. He picked it up.

  Nick’s mobile number was displayed on the screen.

  Jason took a long draw of his cigar.

  Then clicked it off.

  * * *

  Nick looked in the rear-view mirror. The two sets of headlights were closing in on him. A black helicopter flew overhead.

  The exchange at the monastery in Egypt was ringing at last. A voice answered in garbled Arabic.

  ‘I need to speak to Lawrence St Cartier,’ Nick shouted. ‘St Cartier – Yallah!’

  More garbled Arabic voices came on the line followed by Lawrence’s voice as clear as a bell.

  ‘Nicholas, hello my boy.’

  ‘Lawrence,I’m in troub – ’

  Nick broke off in mid sentence. His head felt as if it was exploding into a million shards. His heart pounded violently like a jackhammer in his chest as he crossed the bridge to an oncoming pass.

  His thoughts were suddenly in total disarray and he felt as though he was losing control of his limbs. This was crazy – what on earth was happening to him?

  Images of Lawrence, Jotapa, Adrian, the Ark of the Covenant, James De Vere, Lorcan De Molay competed with each other.

  He wanted to throw up from the sudden nausea. He could hear Lawrence calling his name, but for the life of him he couldn’t answer.

 
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