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Son of perdition, p.4
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       Son of Perdition, p.4

           Wendy Alec

  Lucifer bowed in mock deference. ‘Tell Yehovah . . . ’ he murmured, ’He can still surrender to me if He chooses. I may even offer Him mercy.

  He swung around to Gabriel. ‘But not the Nazarene!’

  He studied his brothers intently. ‘There will be no surrender. My plan to annihilate the Race of Men is far more in advance than Yehovah dares to admit. My son rises even now in the corridors of political power.’

  He pulled his velvet robes around him. ‘You will inform me of the time of our war.’

  ‘You will receive a missive from the Royal Courts,’ Michael said coldly.

  ‘In the middle of the Tribulation.’ Gabriel’s voice was soft. ‘When the Son of Perdition breaks his covenant with Israel – the war between Michael and the dragon draws nigh.’

  Gabriel’s eyes bored into Lucifer. ‘You will lose, Lucifer – as you lost at Golgotha.’

  Lucifer stared through veiled eyes at Gabriel’s flawless features. ‘That, my naive younger brother, remains to be seen. Tell Him that if I lose, I shall set myself up a kingdom on their territory. In their midst – a seat of power. Babylon.’ He shrugged. ‘Although Washington DC holds a certain callow appeal. Either way, Michael, I shall wreak havoc among the Race of Men.’

  Michael watched as Lucifer strode to the very edge of the Memorial.

  ‘Before the first seal is opened,’ he said softly, ‘you shall be summoned by Royal Missive to witness the reading of the Tenets of Eternal Law regarding the Seven Seals of Revelation.’

  ‘I await His summons.’ Lucifer’s eyes flashed with a dark, fire. Six monstrous black seraph wings rose behind him.

  And before their eyes, he vanished into the clear skies above the District of Columbia.

  Chapter Four

  Raiders of the Ark

  Temple Mount, Jerusalem

  The outside of the Temple Mount was heaving with activity. Rows of gleaming blue-lettered UN four-wheel drives, trucks and helicopters stood around the perimeter. All land for a mile around had been evacuated and was sectioned off with high barbed-wire fences as armed special forces wearing the familiar blue UN helmets guarded the area with their German shepherd dogs. Inside the secure zone, high-ranking Israeli, Palestinian and UN officials talked tersely among themselves. Nearer the dig was a second smaller cordoned space.

  The sacred relic lay uncovered under a canopy on a raised dais in the second fenced-off area. Now fully visible, it was an ornate chest, approximately four feet long, two and a half feet high, made of wood overlaid with gold. A decorated gold rim ran around the top and at the four corners were rings through which poles could be passed to carry it. On the lid, facing each other, were two figurines of angels – cherubim, in beaten gold, their wings outstretched towards each other.

  Eight archaeologists were meticulously checking measurements and comparing them to diagrams.

  Father Alessandro, a white-haired scientist priest from the Vatican, gazed at the enormous golden seal locking the casket.

  ‘The seal of Daniel,’ he whispered.

  He shook his head from side to side in wonder.

  Klaus von Hausen studied the priest intently, then took a step nearer.

  ‘It’s what, Father?’ He frowned.

  ‘The seal of Daniel.’ The priest looked up to meet Klaus’s clear gaze. ‘Look – look closely.’

  Klaus examined the engraving of four horsemen in fascination, then looked back at Father Alessandro.

  ‘The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse . . . ’ He shook his head. ‘Impossible.’

  ‘It is the earthly seal. It replicates the Seals of Revelation. You have heard of it?’

  Klaus nodded. ‘The Apocalypse of Saint John, Father. Before I studied antiquities, I studied in Germany. The theological college of Bethel.’

  ‘Ah.’ Father Alessandro raised his eyebrows. ‘Then you understand that, according to the writings of the Prophet Daniel, Solomon’s Temple must be rebuilt at the time of the End. “The Son of Perdition will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘week’. In the middle of the ‘week’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering . . . ”’

  Klaus gazed over to the Ark, then finished the priest’s sentence softly.

  ‘And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him . . . ’

  Father Alessandro smiled in approval. ‘Ancient legend has it that when the First Seal of Revelation is about to be broken – the First Seal of the Seven-Sealed Scroll – the Ark of the Covenant will be rediscovered. It heralds the End of Days.’

  ‘Just a legend, Father.’ Klaus smiled.

  He was interrupted by the roar of gunships on the shimmering horizon. Father Alessandro shielded his eyes from the sun as six gleaming black Sikorsky CH-53E gunships hovered over the cordoned-off area of the Temple Mount, blowing up a dust storm.

  The soldiers of the UN security forces stared perplexed, then in confusion aimed their weapons towards the gunships. Six hellfire rockets screamed towards them. Directly on target. Destroying everything in their detonation zone.

  Only the casket itself and the small group of archaeologists surrounding it stood untouched. The men stared petrified at the mangled remains on the Mount.

  ‘They are here . . . ’ Father Alessandro whispered.

  ‘Who?’ Klaus whispered. ‘Who is here?’

  He looked up at the huge black gunship hovering directly over the Ark.

  A section of special-forces mercenary commandos rappelled to the smoking ground.

  Father Alessandro gestured to Klaus. ‘Stay close.’

  The archaeologists cowered in terror. All except the Vatican Priest, who watched intently as the mercenaries executed a well-rehearsed operation to crate up the Ark of the Covenant.

  Kester Von Slagel appeared through the smoke. He nodded to the commando leader, Guber, who turned from the crate and nonchalantly lifted his sub-machine gun.

  Guber gave a thin smile.

  Klaus watched in horror as the archaeologists were gunned down one by one, execution style.

  Guber turned to the priest, who was deliberately shielding Klaus.

  ‘A man of the cloth,’ Guber leered, pointing the machine gun directly at his temple.

  Father Alessandro thrust Klaus away from him as Guber pulled the trigger from point blank range. The bullets ploughed straight through the priest who faced him, unharmed.

  Klaus stared in horror, his body trembling uncontrollably.

  Guber turned to Von Slagel, confused. ‘It seems we have an uninvited visitor,’ Von Slagel said. He took a step towards the old priest, looking into his eyes with undisguised hatred.

  The priest gazed back at him, fearless. He gestured to Klaus.

  ‘Let him live.’ He spoke softly in an ancient form of Syriac. ‘It is enough slaughter for one day.’

  ‘Unfortunately,’ Von Slagel replied in the same language, ‘that is just not possible.’ He paused, studying the priest. ‘Father Alessandro, you of all are aware that I always obey my Master’s orders.’

  Von Slagel pointed a small handgun at Klaus’s head and fired. Klaus fell to the ground. Lifeless.

  The priest’s eyes blazed with fury. He looked at Von Slagel in contempt, then sank to his knees. He closed Klaus’s eyes gently, then removed the cross from around his neck and laid it on the dead man’s chest.

  ‘Seven years until your demise in the Lake of Fire,’ he said softly, rising to his full height. ‘Your reign will not be long . . . Charsoc the Dark.’

  A fleeting smile played on Kester Von Slagel’s lips.

  ‘But longer than yours, I think,’ he replied in Syriac. ‘Issachar the fool.’

  They exchanged a long hard look.

  ‘And where is your Grand Master, Jether?’ Von Slagel spat. ‘I have sensed him. ‘I know he is hidden somewhere on this muddy little planet. When the first seal is broken, I shall find him.’

  The priest closed his eyes, ignoring
Von Slagel’s question.

  ‘Seven years till the reign of Christos,’ he said softly.

  ‘Jerusalem is ours.’ Von Slagel’s face contorted in rage. ‘We the Fallen are the Kings of earth. The Nazarene will never reign.’

  Kester Von Slagel metamorphosized until he stood, eight feet tall, his black hair flying. He lifted his curved necromancer’s blade high over Issachar’s head.

  ‘You revealed yourself before the First Seal is broken, Issachar. How careless of you. You now forfeit your right to walk as the Angelic amongst the Race of Men.’

  Charsoc’s eyes glowed an evil yellow. ‘In the name of his son.’

  He severed Issachar’s head from his shoulders with one clean thrust.

  The head rolled in the dirt. The body plummeted to the ground and disappeared.

  ‘Raven is here.’ Von Slagel stared at a soft bluish glow on the horizon as four dome-shaped flying machines hovered over Jerusalem, and then just as suddenly vanished. A machine seared a strange black seal in the shape of a phoenix onto the side of the crate.

  Underneath, it read: Property of the New World Order.

  Chapter Five

  Monastery of Archangels

  19 December 2021

  Monastery of Archangels, Egypt

  Nick De Vere’s open-top Jeep sped across the sands of the sprawling Western Desert, leaving huge dust trails in its wake.

  Three miles in the distance Nick caught sight of the ancient granite monastery – its fortress walls carved from the mountain. He changed down into a lower gear as he sped up the dirt road for the final stretch of his journey.

  Five minutes later, the Jeep came to a grinding halt outside the towering western gate of the Monastery of Archangels. Nick leaned on the horn, then pried his tall, frail frame out of the Jeep and walked over to the gate.

  The two Bedouin gatekeepers scrambled to their feet, their long robes billowing behind them, and began hauling the lift down by its system of pulleys.

  There was a loud scraping and groaning of wood as the huge contraption descended over the side of the monastery wall.

  Nick stepped into the swaying lift.

  * * *

  Professor Lawrence St Cartier lay snoring loudly on an imported teak recliner in the lush monastery gardens, his fawn safari pants exposing his thin lily-white legs and their quintessentially British sandals and knee-length socks. At the sound of the Jeep’s horn, he lifted his white panama hat from over his eyes and grudgingly raised himself on one arm.

  Rising reluctantly, he walked over to the edge of the gardens, shielding his eyes from the winter sun as he peered through the gate.

  He smiled broadly as Nick climbed out of the lift and walked into the garden. He grabbed Nick in a crushing bear-hug, then held him at arm’s length.

  Nick De Vere was a shadow of his former self. The pretty playboy whose face had been plastered across the celebrity columns of the British tabloids for years had changed. His cheeks were hollow, the grey eyes sunken, the blond-streaked hair thinner. Lawrence gasped inwardly as his gaze fell on the outline of Nick’s ribs, clearly visible beneath his T-shirt.

  ‘Lawrence.’ The irrepressible boyish grin was still there.

  Lawrence noted the raised white area on Nick’s tongue, then stared in dismay at the reddish purple patches across his body. Karposi’s sarcoma had already set in. Lawrence bowed his head. Nicholas De Vere had only weeks to live.

  ‘Nicholas, dear boy! You look sicker than even “they” described.’

  ‘“They” being Mother and Julia?’

  The Professor nodded. He had known the easy-going youngest son of the De Vere dynasty from birth. Lilian had described to him in detail her beloved youngest son’s deterioration, but even the pragmatic Lawrence was not prepared for this.

  ‘I’m so sorry, my boy,’ St Cartier said awkwardly. ‘Your mother is beside herself with worry and Julia phoned me from Rome.’

  Nick waved Lawrence aside. ‘Don’t, Uncle Lawrence. Compassion was never your strong suit. The antiretroviral drugs have stopped working,’ he added matter-of-factly. ‘I’m dying.’

  The old man nodded, then pursed his lips.‘Death is an old friend to the likes of me.’ He looked deeply into the younger man’s grey eyes. ‘But a foe to you, Nicholas De Vere,’ he muttered.

  Nick rolled his eyes. ‘Lay off, Lawrence. We’ve been through this since I was twelve.’

  The Professor swatted absently at four flies circling his nose.

  ‘Your stubborn insistence on refuting the existence of a Higher Power in no way negates His existence, Nicholas.’ Lawrence’s beady eagle eyes glittered in dudgeon. ‘Your ignorant repudiations are like the infinitesimal rantings of–’

  ‘A bug on a windshield.’ Nick grinned.

  Lawrence glowered, then his expression softened.

  Nick smiled. Lawrence St Cartier, CIA agent, antiquities expert, but at heart still the Jesuit priest.

  ‘You said it was imperative I meet you here, Lawrence. What rare antiquity did you unveil in Bali?’

  ‘Ah, I knew I could count on your incurable obsession with the rare-antiquities market. I’ll enlighten you at dinner.’ Lawrence signalled and a monk walked out from under the cypress trees. ‘A nap and some sunlight will do you the world of good. Brother Francis, show Mr De Vere to his room. Number nine, if I recollect.’

  The old monk bowed and gestured to Nick to follow him through the cypress grove.

  Lawrence St Cartier watched, disquieted, as the fragile De Vere limped across the meticulously kept lawns of the monastery gardens, leaning heavily on an antique silver cane.

  Lawrence sighed deeply, then walked over to a small open-air Coptic garden chapel ten yards to his left.

  And kneeling before the exquisitely carved stone crucifix, Professor Lawrence St Cartier bowed his head in supplication for the soul of Nicholas De Vere.

  Chapter Six

  Lily and Alex

  Manhattan, New York

  The landlines in Jason De Vere’s executive headquarters in midtown Manhattan rang incessantly, fielded by his three remarkably efficient executive assistants.

  Jontil Purvis answered Jason’s private line for the seventh time in succession, with her normal calm demeanour. She put the call on hold.

  ‘Mr De Vere, sir.’

  On the monitor in front of her she watched Jason striding across the tarmac of the penthouse roof towards his personal helicopter. He fixed his earpiece into his ear.

  ‘I said hold all calls,’ he shouted above the roaring of the helicopter turbine and rotor.

  ‘You’ll want this one, sir,’ Jontil Purvis purred in her unflappable Southern accent. ‘It’s Lily.’

  Jason climbed into the helicopter and settled down into the plush leather seat.

  ‘Put her through,’ he barked.

  Jason glared at the dark-haired sixteen-year-old on the monitor of the helicopter’s communication system.

  ‘Lily!’ he growled.

  * * *

  Julia St Cartier stood in amusement watching Lily as she negotiated with her father who was raging on the phone over three thousand miles away across the Atlantic.

  She looked out of the enormous floor-to-ceiling windows of the Georgian townhouse on to Brighton’s bustling promenade. It was still winter and the temperatures were just above freezing, but as usual the British public were out in droves.

  Julia smiled.

  Strange how Americans were labelled loud. After living on the East Coast for over half her life, she was in no doubt that it was quite the reverse. On her return she had been amazed and amused by the loudness of British life. The Americans dressed more conservatively too, except in hubs like New York or L.A., but in Britain you found idiosyncracy on every street of every town.

  She broke off from her meanderings and turned from the window. Lily was still on the phone arguing with her father.

  ‘No Dad – you knew months ago!’ Lily scowled. ‘Alex, Polly and I are spending t
he summer at the townhouse in Georgetown. It’s been planned since September.’

  The girl rolled her eyes impatiently.

  ‘No we’re not on our own, Dad – Mum’s joining us the second week. Stop treating me like I’m nine!’

  Julia studied her sixteen-year-old daughter with amusement and no little admiration. Lily’s long gleaming dark hair framed strong features and high cheekbones. Her deep green eyes flashed. They were her only leaning to the St Cartier side of the family, from Julia’s beloved late mother Lola.

  Everything else was pure De Vere, right down to the cleft in Lily’s chin. There was no fighting it. Lily was already almost a replica of Jason De Vere in both her looks and temperament. And Julia adored her.

  It had been almost nine years since the accident that had disabled Lily.

  Julia sighed: she remembered every second. It had been the day of a big De Vere family party. Lily, only seven, was exhausted and Nick had offered to drive her home early. A huge pantechnicon had jack-knifed in front of them from out of nowhere. They hadn’t had a chance. Nick, though concussed, had sustained only bruises and scratches, but Lily was paralyzed from the waist down. Wheelchair-bound and disabled for life. Nick had had two beers – below the legal limit – and Julia had never needed any convincing that it had been beyond his control but Jason – well, that was another matter. Jason hadn’t talked to his youngest brother since that day. And the vivacious seven-year-old, whose world revolved around ballet, had spent six months in hospital and another six in physical therapy. The specialists had been unanimous; she would be bedridden for life. But typically De Vere, Lily had proved them all wrong.

  In under two years she was in a wheelchair and starting life as a boarder at Roedean School in Brighton. Within three months, Lily had become the life and soul of the establishment, and Jason and Julia had purchased the house in Brighton so that Julia could be near her.

  Lily was a true survivor. Courageous. Tenacious. Sometimes tactless. She had inherited her father’s bluntness, his lack of sugar coating.

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