By Stephen Whittaker
– 1 –
Where curtain meets curtain a small gap allowed sunlight to seep into the bedroom, catching Irena’s lovely face. He gently kissed her neck and she stretched with a feline quality as she awoke. He had no idea where this would go, where it would lead, but he was compelled to follow. His life had moved from plan to plan and order gave it meaning. It was time to break that mould, lest he atrophied and became a stone monument to himself.
They put on their discarded robes from the previous evening and headed downstairs, drawn by the aroma of fine coffee; which meant, of course, Lena was about.
“Good morning you two. Sleep well?”
“Yes thank you.” said her mother and smiled at Gabriel, “and you?”
“Not too bad, but there were some odd noises coming from below. Sounded like a ghost.” She could contain herself no longer and burst out laughing.
“Oh Lena, please don’t tease, you will embarrass Gabriel.”
“I doubt it given what I heard. Look, I am pleased for you both, and mom you deserve it, especially after what you’ve been through. It was inevitable, I thought you would never get round to it.”
“I am still here you know.” piped up Gabriel. Lena walked round the table and kissed his cheek.
“Bet I know who made the first move.” looking over at her mother with a broad smile on her face.
“Ok ladies, let’s get dressed and go for breakfast.”
“Are you cooking tonight?” asked Irena.
“If you wish, think what you may like. I will get it later.”
Irena always cleared her plate, a heritage from a time when shelves were empty. Times had changed, but there was still a vast underclass, Putin’s power base. He reminded them of Stalin who murdered more people (mainly his own) than Hitler, yet still had statues in his name. It’s impossible to imagine a statue to Hitler in Germany today.
Leaving the house both security men left their car as usual, one to follow, the other to guard.
Gabriel had informed Irena of his psychotic disposition which in his case was limited to auditory and visual hallucinations. Unless, of course he felt threatened but now he felt happy and secure.
Her only comment was that he would have made a perfect soldier and he had replied that he had been. He told her of his past drinking which he had hoped would at least dampen the effect, but instead it made it worse, more chaotic and with increasing frequency. He kept a fine wine cellar for guests and to remind him not to go there again.
In the café he had his usual croissant and coffee, as did the ladies. They were baked on the premises and their aroma suffused the air. If your appetite was indifferent it soon wouldn’t be. With apricot jam and butter melting into the flaky pastry, a gift to mankind he thought.
They got up to leave and the agent slurped back the last of his coffee, ordering a sandwich to go. He went for a Rubens (so named after the famous New York deli from whence it originated.) Gabriel had been the there. A key ingredient is Russian dressing, horseradish and mayo. Gabriel overheard and for the life of him could not get Russian out of his head.
They got home; Lena went to her room with a copy of The Stranger by Camus. Gabriel and Irena talked.
“Should I not get her a television for her room?”
“Do not under any circumstances do that, promise?”
“We need her to devote to study so she gains access to the best Oxford Colleges. I have high hopes for her. Now, let’s go to bed.” The authority in her voice and that accent were enough.
“But it’s barely lunchtime.”
“So keep the noise down.”
– 2 –
That afternoon he looked out the window, and in a blue sky saw a dark cloud on the horizon. No larger than a man’s hand, but as it drew closer leaves would rustle on the trees. Closer, trees would sway. Closer still they would be torn apart. This is how it started, how it always started. He had to leave. He could not bear for her to see him like this. In a moment of clarity (perhaps the last left) he went to his dressing room, (his safe was in there) took a red holdall from the cupboard and opened it. He counted out (leaving more behind) ten five grand envelopes, which he believed he could get by on, assuming periods of lucidity.
He waited in bed until dark, made sure Irena was sleeping then rose. He slipped on a hoody and jeans and went to the back of the house, knowing the front was monitored. He disabled the cameras. He had about ten seconds before an alarm went through. He ran hard. Climbed over the fence into the neighbour’s garden opposite then quietly moved to the road. He went on to the city centre. Now, police sirens in the background were no concern of his.
He headed for the train station, knowing there would be cabs. He still had it together.
“Take me to a good hotel.”
“Sir, yes of course.”
This is his thinking at that moment.
Tell me how far does your money drift?
When you fed the kids.
Tell me how must a man survive
To keep himself alive?
Discard him when he has the shakes.
His abuse is trivial to you.
It breaks your heart
But you watch anywise.
– 3 –
“Can I get a room please?”
“Only the executive suit available.”
“You take cash?”
“We do, what name sir?”
“James, James Osterberg.”
“Do you have any I D sir?”
“Sorry no. My wife just kicked me out. Thankfully I had some cash stacked away.”
“I see, but this is highly irregular.”
“Will this help?” he slipped fifty quid over the counter. “Call it a tip for your wonderful service.”
She smiled. “Well thank you.” She reached behind for the key. “It’s room 666 on the sixth floor. Not often taken, people think it’s unlucky.”
“In my experience we make our own luck. Good night and thanks for your cooperation.”
The next day he went to a tailor for a suit. He chose a three piece dark grey pinstripe; he was fitted and requested it by early afternoon.
“But sir, this would usually take two days!”
“I believe this will help.” and handed him a hundred pounds. “Let’s say three o’clock, oh, and I need three white shirts and a tie, the colour of dried blood.”
“Sir will look smart indeed.”
“I will see you at three then.”
He took a cab back to the hotel and rested on his bed. He must have fallen asleep. No one knows the point at which lucidity cascades into dreams, but in his dream there was a voice. It was gentle, almost a whisper and deeply seductive. “Be ready about 8.30, a car will be outside, see you soon. The storm has arrived, Levi the storm has arrived.”
– 4 –
Irena awoke to find Gabriel not there, perhaps he was downstairs. She got out of bed, robed and went looking round the house; to the living room, the basement kitchen and finally his study. Nowhere to be seen. She looked outside and saw both security men still in their car so he had not gone for an early walk. On his desk, however, were his passport, his wallet and his mobile together with his laptop. The wallet contained his debit card, so what was he using for cash? She ran to his dressing room where he kept his safe. The key was still in it and she looked inside. He had told her there was £150000 as an emergency, but some was missing. This man did not want to be traced, he wanted to be invisible!
The authorities needed to be alerted, but Irena knew Gabriel would not easily be found, particularly given his training. He had no I D, but plenty of cash.
He had talked of his mental diagnosis, so she assumed this was one of his ‘episodes’. He had also talked of his past drinking, which appeared to have ended some time ago. He had no secrets, which she admired him for, as most people do. His abject honesty was, in fact, his most attractive feature. She could feel as the days past a growing affection, the gravity of which was accelerating towards love. She had never expected this after the murder of her husband, but there it was. Certainly he was a complex character, but she did not mind that. He was above all gentle and kind with both her and Lena. This they both needed after the travails of Russia.
Irena went to the phone. There was a card of secret service operatives, Birket and Stevens. The others had ‘gone’ since Gabriel had reported their links with Russia. Of course, they had denied any involvement, but the £10m sent to her bank clinched it. They were quietly jailed.
The number rang twice, then answered.
“Birket here, how can I help?”
“My partner is missing.”
“And you are?”
“Oh, oh well, the famous biochemist. You were with Gabriel Levi, is that not so?”
“Yes, yes but he has gone missing. He has taken money and no I D; I feel he is in some danger.”
“We will send someone round immediately. Did our men not see him leave?”
“It was about 3am judging by the cameras when he switched them off. He went over the back fence I believe. I don’t know if you are aware of his medical history, but he is psychotic and sometimes cannot tell reality from delusion. However he is not violent, if not threatened. Find him please.”
She put the phone down and looked at her daughter who came over and hugged her. Her mother was almost as sad as the day her father was murdered.
“He probably just needs time to himself.” said Lena. “There has been a lot going on, it may have tripped a switch, who knows?”
– 5 –
He wakes, showers and dresses in the new suit, then leaves his plush Knightsbridge hotel. Car waiting, but a different driver (perhaps the other had a day off?) He opened a newspaper and soon became drowsy and fell asleep.
“We are here sir.”
“This is not Old Broad Street?” where his office was.
“Just so sir, but we are here.”
“And where the h**l are we?”
“You said yourself sir, this is h**l.”
The driver got out and politely opens his door, pointing to an elegant glass building.
“Just go in there sir and report to reception.”
“Am I being abducted?”
“Oh, no sir, that’s not how this works.” He smiled, “Everything will be just fine.”
“I must call my office.”
“Not possible sir, there is no signal from here.”
Gabriel looked at his phone. It’s dead; no charge, but charged overnight.
He felt he should feel totally confused and disoriented but for some reason felt calm. The location had a familiarity he couldn’t place. What was it?
– 6 –
Irena decided to call Mike to see if he knew anything. The phone was answered quickly, with a happy Mike saying “Hi Gaby, how’s it going?” Irena interjected.
“Mike, I need you to listen carefully, Gabriel has gone missing.”
“Missing? did he take any I D with him?”
“No, just some cash. I think he is experiencing an “episode.”
Mike thought back to Bosnia when Gabriel was sent on deep undercover missions. A master of disguise, he always went alone. “Listen, we will come round straight away, hold tight there, ok?”
“We, Mike, we?”
“I will bring Jamie, if anyone can find him it’s Jamie. Just like he found you.”
“But his mother would object, particularly as Jamie is doing so well in his studies.” Jamie had asked for a speech therapist, a maths tutor and another for writing. His progress had been amazing. His voice still lacked intonation, but he had proved beyond doubt his intelligence. His parents were delighted. No longer a figure of discord between them, Jamie had brought them closer together and love had been rekindled.
“Let me deal with Jen.” were his parting words.
– 7 –
Lucifer and Gabriel
He approached the building as the car drove away. The weather was pleasant, like a perfect spring morning. This was the only building, surrounded by trees in leaf. But surely it was mid-winter?
Glass doors slid silently apart and he tentatively walked in. Ahead, sitting behind a most beautiful marble desk was a very attractive woman. Before he could speak she spoke in a mellifluous voice.
“Good morning Mr. Levi, take a seat. L will be with you shortly.”
“It’s just what we call him” accompanied by an achingly enticing smile.
“Would you care for some coffee, tea, perhaps water?”
“Coffee please.” She picked up the phone and ordered coffee to reception.
He sat on a comfortable sofa with a low table which bore some magazines. He looked at the titles. One was called ‘Catholic Watch’ the main headline being ‘Not Again!’ an article on child abuse. Another was ‘Muslim World’ with the strap line ‘watch out’ talking about the ambitions of global Islamification. The last one was ‘Evangelical’ in which there was a serious discussion on the age of the earth (placed at 4600 years old) based on the bible and went on to say evolution never happened.
The receptionist spoke to him saying L was ready to see him, pointing to the one lift he could see, telling him to press ‘B’. The doors opened and he stepped in. There were only two buttons, O and B. He pressed B and the lift immediately began to descend, quite rapidly. After a few minutes it came to a gentle stop and Gabriel assumed he must be far below ground level.
The doors opened and he was faced with a featureless, but well-lit corridor. There were a pair of doors at the other end and instinctively he walked towards them.
Whoever owned this place must be massively rich. Probably some kind of ‘Bond Villain’ which he didn’t mind; he had met this type before, but if this was some kind of headhunting exercise it was certainly elaborate.
– 8 –
“Jen, we have to go to Gabe’s place.”
“Irena needs our help. Gabriel has gone missing.”
“Well, what a surprise. Finally had enough of the Russian tart has he? Serves him right in my opinion.”
“No Jen. We are going to see her and I hope you will join us.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“Up to you. Jamie is waiting in the car. We must go asap.”
“We are all going,” said Jen, “See what a mess he’s got himself into.” She said with a withering smile. Since the last adventure Jamie had come on leaps and bounds, developing his speech with an extraordinary interest and ability in mathematics. His vocal patterns were still flat and monotone, nevertheless his parents were thrilled at his progress, as if he had awoken.
They piled into the car and set off for Gabriels. The security men had been notified of their arrival.
“He’s done this before.” said Mike “Probably going back to his army days when he went deep under cover.”
“You’ve always got an excuse for him, haven’t you Mike! “He’s a nut job, pure and simple.”
– 9 –
He knocked, and a gentle voice within asked him to come in. He turned a handle, which he had initially taken to be brass, but on casual inspection was actually gold. This was a first, nice touch he thought.
He walked into a spacious, softly lit office. On the right was a window which appeared to show day light (which had to be an illusion, as Gabriel knew he was very far below ground level.) On the left was floor to ceiling bookshelves, accompanied by a library ladder, placed for the higher volumes.
But far and away the most fascinating aspect was the sole object sitting behind a desk, by the far wall. This must be L.
L stood and offered his hand. Gabriel drew closer. Looking at L he couldn’t believe how beautiful he was. It was as if he was actually made of shimmering, golden light. As he shook his hand he felt a pleasing warmth and tingle spread through his body.
“Take a seat” said L, who also sat down. Gabriel could not take his eyes off the fabulous creature before him. This was definitely way beyond his experience.
“Don’t worry, I get that sort of reaction a lot” and he smiled. Eventually, and with no little effort, Gabriel managed to find his voice. He noticed a glass of water by his hand, which he felt had not been there when he sat down.
Gabriel took a sip, gave a polite cough and asked, “Can you tell me what is going on here?”
Their eyes met for what seemed like ages, but was actually a moment. He felt he was being read by this mysterious individual. Eventually he sat back, but still looked at him, transfixed by the beauty.
“Yes, of course, how rude of me. Well, I have been watching you, probably most of your life, and I think I could use a man like you.”
“Use, use how?”
“I’m afraid it’s too early to say.”
“Is this some kind of joke, are there hidden cameras somewhere?”
L gave a brief laugh.
“I can assure you, it’s no joke. Look at this as an assessment; and I am sorry, I can’t reveal the purpose why.”
Gabriel was becoming somewhat annoyed by all this ‘cloak and dagger’ stuff and asked directly if this was an interview for a job.
“In a way it is, but not a job as you would know it. Look, I can see you’re annoyed, I respect that, and you can leave any time you wish.”
Gabriel felt he’d gone along with this whole charade so far; he might as well hear it out.
“I know what you are aware of because I know what you read and discuss with your friends; how I know doesn’t matter.”
“Are you following me?” asked Gabriel angrily.
“I really don’t need to.” said L calmly. “I said I was aware of what you know and think, but there are things you are completely wrong about. You seem to have conflated the nonsense that is religion, (which thanks to ‘reason’ is a decreasing trend) with the notion of the existence of heaven and h**l. Now, you may well be shocked to know that these are real places, not as depicted in medieval art, but more or less real.”
“How can that be? Either heaven, h**l and religion are all true or ancient fictions.”
“I thought you would say that. Religion is a creation by heaven; God if you will, and has given a rise to a cornucopia of weird ideas to keep him in power. He did not create anything; world, man, or beast. But he did have a very good PR, surrounded by genuflecting sycophants. Obviously, I did not join for all the bowing and scrapping and as the story goes, there was a war in heaven which I lost. He could have destroyed me then, but quite cleverly used me as the ‘scary guy’, once again to instil fear into mankind. It has been said I was jealous of his new creation – ‘you’.
A plot, so I pitied man, as I knew what this monster was capable of. The Garden of Eden is a case in point, the restriction of knowledge which exposes him the more that’s revealed through science, logic, and reason, the less room he has for manoeuvre. The strongest time of the church was called ‘the Dark Ages’ when superstition and dogma hid behind clerics and priests. Only recently have the Catholic Church conceded the earth went round the sun. I have changed much of this idiocy but there is still a hard-core in praise of this monster.”
“So you are Lucifer.”
“Yes, correct, the very same. Various unsavoury names have been attributed. I prefer Lucifer or plain L.”
He extended his beautiful glowing hand and Gabriel took it.
“You are not like I imagined.”
“What, no scaling red skin, fangs and horns? Ideas planted in the psyche that have taken hold.”
“Pretty good PR if you ask me.”
“I would open the eyes of men to the truth, which would undermine his authority and also, he would need to visibly defeat me. I need people, special people to work with me, not like him, he accepts anyone who repents, no matter how rotten they were in life, as long as they believe.”
His voice seemed sad. Gabriel did not know he had a great sense of loss. No more, there was betrayal in that look.
L slapped his hands on his desk.
“So now you know who I am, I am L. Why don’t you reveal yourself?”
“Because the brilliance most definitely, would kill you, I don’t want that.”
“I thought you have read ‘Paradise lost’? Who did you see as the most sympathetic character? Will you?”
“Yes, God’s line were those of a babbling idiot.”
“Do you know why? Because that’s what he is.”
The character before him was very confusing as Gabriel’s mind was scrambled; was he who he said he was? Was he ‘Lucifer’? Surely not, this must be some kind of joke.
“I can do tricks, but I am more concerned about you, humanity.”
“If there is a God that not we are meant to believe?”
“What are his so-called powers? Omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, and his will all powerful.
Let’s take a look at his record in the particular features. There he has the power or does nothing or decides not to act. To you, I know you, but surely it’s unacceptable to you. Their punishment will be in h**l if not so wise. I do not welcome sinners, the perverts. There is no use to me. I wish the pure of mind and together we can conquer this totalitarian regime.”
L said “I think you should go home, take the car upstairs. There is no achievement without endeavour.”
That made some kind of sense. Gabriel was handed his coat.
“I hope we meet again, we have so much to discuss.”
Gabriel left the office and returned to the lift. He pressed and climbed up.
At reception there was the same woman, smiling sweetly wishing him a safe journey. He couldn’t tell whether it was sincere… It didn’t matter, she was very beautiful. The car outside had appeared. He got in.
He immediately fell asleep, then arrived home.
His phone was working now, 10 missed calls, all from the office, no messages left. He called the numbers. Jane, his secretary picked up.
“It’s rather late, but I believe congratulations in order.”
“You sealed the deal.”
“Oh come on! Don’t get all modest on me.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“You have just got the contract for the Universal Pension Scheme for our teachers. We can make a fortune out of that. 0.5% of £20 billion US is worth a lot to this company.”
He had not expected this, it was to say, at the very least a long shot. He put the phone down. Then noticed a card peeping from his coat top pocket. He took it out. It was black with cherubs. The card read ‘Lucifer Enterprises’ but below, carefully scripted in red (he wasn’t sure whether this was red ink or blood) was ‘please call, we should speak.’
He went to bed. What an extraordinary day it had been. He could remember hardly anything, but some words resonated in his befuddled head, ‘the more you look, the less you will see.’ He drifted into sleep.
Always regarding himself as the master of his own destiny. He was now no longer sure.
Could he explain this? What was this, a man, or an angel before him?
The cleft of reality dug deep into his heart.
He felt alone, abandoned, as he had done since childhood. He must forget the past, simpler than explained.
He didn’t dream that night. This was unusual. Had what happened really happened?
He had no idea.
– 10 –
Birket and Stevens came to the door and Irena opened it. Mike, Jen and Jamie were already there. The tension was palpable. Birket began:
“So, Mrs Petrovitch, you say Gabriel is missing. Since when?” He took out a note book.
“Not sure, middle of the night I think. He took no I D, just some cash.”
“How much do you think?”
“At least 50.”
“That’s not much.”
“I mean £50k.”
“Oh I see.”
Mike came in.
“You’ve seen his war record. If he doesn’t want to be found, he won’t be. He is resilient and resourceful. I suggest you don’t chase him. Let him come to you.”
“My men are busting a gut to find this degenerate!”
“I do not advise it sir, unless you have a ready supply of body bags. Gabriel is a national hero, respect it.”
“Oh yes, war hero. But what he knows, if extracted, is a threat to our state.”
Jen intervened. “Calm down boys, calm down. He has done nothing yet, so may we kiss and forget past times?”
Mike was astonished at her patios. Something he never knew.
But there were security officers in the room.
“Kill him on sight.”
The order came from Birket.
– 11 –
Gabriel was at work. Made a few calls; they had clapped as he entered. His mind raced, fear and excitement provided a heavy combination. He rang the number on the card. After a short while it was answered.
“Hello Gabriel, I thought you would call.”
This took the breath from him, he gasped replying,
“What do you want?”
“I just want you; you are my prize. Come and see, I need you, as you need me. I speak aloud through the shadows of darkness, there is no other but you and me.”
Who can keep you from the piercing eye?
Of swans with beak, it flows as the water passes by.
He cannot deny his sins, though he may try, and words prophesied.
He will see and countermand them to eternity.
‘The shadows of darkness cover.’ What did he mean? Was he hiding something? It did not look like it, or feel like it.
A thought came in like a scurrying rat, but left him; no doubt he would visit again.
The car awaited, and with breath rasping he got in, knowing full well he was under a spell and could lose control. It was time to roll the dice, see how they fell. In favour or not, they would tell his fate and what could or could not be created.
He arrived, going straight to the lift without objection. Now he had to know. He charged to the door of the office and burst in. Yet while his temper rose, he froze at the sight before him.
A bright angel. The clue is in the name ‘I bear light’.
“Did he ever bring you that? No. He gave you superstition, ignorance and darkness, oh, and perverse religion; claimed all the prizes without the effort.
It was not meant to be like that. Is there a pact between you and me? You do not fall for tricks, and none are played and yet you stayed. Only a fool wants to die. I have some influence on proceedings.”
He turned to him; his angelic look had changed. Now a manly form. Most people seem shy. He was not. Doubted his eyesight and reason, but posed a question.
“Why this game?”
“It’s not a game, perhaps a future? Do not feel ashamed, no treason, but you were cast away as I, and we can ally and fight the poison. I spare the rod, but you are in the squad, there is no reason to walk from fame.”
He collapsed at the eloquence of the man in his chair.
“Who calls my name? Would you defame my character? That’s not what I am after. I need nothing from you, a new chapter begins where all transgressions forgiven. What did I do wrong? Nothing, really. You have regrets. I have them too. But it is true without exemption, but temptation drew you to the far away. The day will come when you are alone, no comfort in the highway, drive away speed on test, you forget you have to pay.
A rose has scent, the orchid nothing; which will you choose? The most beautiful of course. It’s him or me, you decide.”
He was stuck for words, but his head filled with reality. This conversation could not end. He believed he had found a true friend. But one who had a sadness undisclosed.
“I will show you.” He disrobed, revealing a physique of untold beauty and then he knew he was in love. Not homosexual, but wanted to touch the muscularity and kiss the full lips. Was this temptation or a test?
“You are very beautiful, but I cannot.”
“Ok, I can change, I know what you like.”
Instantly he became a woman, and he felt arousal like never before. He had found his phantasies, but who could not resist?
A scorpion must have a tail, a snake a tongue, a lion teeth and strength. He felt the battle had commenced. Who would he fight? He would be told.
“Your strength deserves you, that’s why I chose. We drink to them, this thing, for tomorrow they fight. Say good bye to your loved ones, or flee the ticked, but you are good, soldiers will not yield.
No surrender, no retreat.
I saw how you fight.
Your form perfect with steel and when cut, bled little.
You are not a victim or a child, a normal understanding.
A selfless ‘self’ that will retreat.
Does discretion go with valour?
Not repeated in the ages though in tongues of men they fashion.
In the same mortal bliss or an everlasting ‘this’.”
I spoke it like I spoke it to my grave. I miss this compassion. The only thing I miss is your kiss. You miss the angel I am.
“Yet choice comes with, I can show things beyond imagining; not tragic, but you will have a magical feeling. The only thing to miss a magical feeling. The only thing to miss is opportunity, and I can show you true beauty.”
A woman walked in, smiling, alluring. This said L is one of mine.
The invitation to temptation was overwhelming.
“I was told you were a liar.”
“Mistake! I show the truth within your heart. You are more like me than you know. He tries to keep that from you because he is afraid.”
“Afraid of what?”
“What you can do.”
– 12 –
Did he hear the call?
The day seemed real, was that possible? His tenuous grasp of reality grew more fragile. He felt a fear. This man, creature, angel.
Could he go? But could not.
He needed to hear more. His position he did not know, but composition may throw a line.
Only if he had the spine. Was he dangerous? Only sublime indifference would tell with time.
Could he free-style?
All the while not without complication.
Only trapped in this imagination. Was writing a therapy or just management of style.
He went nowhere that night, but thought till dawn, yet still drawn to the conversation. Could he be led so astray?
He thought not.
But a terrible lucidity made him think. Could he get away? No, captured by his smile and promises. Was this a prison or h**l? Or a different alternative reality?
The phone rang, it was him.
“Because I need you, is that enough?”
“Yes, I know, never been needed more.”
“I will see you tomorrow, to discuss matters more.”
The call ended. Suspended in thought, he grew tired and drifted into dreams. Largely self-taught, but had a grasp of things, but not this, it was so different and incomprehensible.
His eyes grew heavy and he fell to blackest sleep.
When he awoke L was at the foot of his bed.
“I watched you sleep, no dreams tonight.”
Gabriel opened his mouth.
“Don’t interrupt, I am talking, listen.”
His voice was still gentle but carried a sharp steel.
“I know you love this world, but look at it. This is not my mess, it’s his. Together we can change this. I will not be nailed to a cross like he did his own son, to prove a point. What loving father would do that?”
“Don’t make me laugh. It was for his own self glory. He is afraid. Discovered as the fraud.”
“When finished, I will go, leave man alone. Believe me it will be more peaceful than you have ever known.”
He looked up, felt his hand upon his shoulder, (like a father to a child) and said the words “My son, sleep more. Tomorrow we begin.”
The kindest words he has ever heard.
– 13 –
Who was the enemy, who the friend? They all had words, but only truth descends. However unpalatable, you must listen.
When he awoke and looked out the car was there.
“Get in sir.”
“Where are we going?”
“You will see.”
Did the legend out run the man? Probably. No matter. He believed there was a plan. The double truth if there was distraction; magical attraction.
He found himself on a train with four passengers, but drowsy.
He fell asleep.
Tapped by a conductor he looks around, now alone in the carriage.
“This is the end, we terminate here sir.”
Where am I? He thought. As he got off, he saw it was L again.
“Welcome dear friend, how are you?”
“‘Ok” he said.
“Good, good. Now we must talk about your position in this enterprise. Walk with me.”
They went out of the station and L asked him to behold the city before them.
“Take a look dear boy, what do you see? It’s not just lights and darkness. Someone on the corner over there peddling drugs. Would you not like to see this here? I am sure you would not, can’t be stopped. Think you could do something about it? Here is my job for you. This city is yours for the taking. I will make it clear, help me and I will help you. I think you know what I need you to do. But I know your wishes. He created the dish, not me. What kills best but pestilence? You my son, must stop it. Stop it now. Created in China. Find a man called Lau and kill him before it happens.”
“He works in a laboratory in Wuhan; quite brilliant, but a b*****d they say. Sorry if you are offended by language. But the passage of time grows short.
“Why not you?”
“I am not here; you see me in corporal form. But I don’t exist. You on the other hand do. Follow me.
As God created me, he can destroy, and I take no prisoners. Just like me. God only makes rules for fear of him, and if you do not, he gives you to me. Do you not see, fear for all mankind creates a blindness, thought and reason?”
“But why me?”
“Because he cannot control you, nor I can. You must decide. He will try to stop you, because he thrives on suffering. The more you suffer the greater his salvation. I tried to do this with that Hitler fellow. Regrettably there was no one suitable to do the job. Look what happened.
You see some men hate and fear war. But until you learn to love it, you will never enjoy the transcendent beauty of victory. Are you a worrier Gabriel, or a mere soldier?”
“I would prefer peace.”
“Me too, but this God forsaken world (and I mean literally) is in a mess as you see. Peace must be fought for, and those who fight must be ready to die for it. Are you ready?”
Gabriel thought; not for long and answered “Yes.” Quite quietly.
L took him by the back of his neck and drew him closer. Eyes always on each other.
“I do believe you are.”
– 14 –
“I need to give you something.” said L. A familiar ‘gut punch’ brought him back to reality.
Winded, and in a jungle. Soldiers had rifles on him.
“Come with us.” they said.
He was dragged up and frog marched to a camp. Flung upon a bed, sleeping through the pain.
He awoke, not dead, feeling grateful. He began to think. These were his thoughts as he told them to me. What would he endure?
“Anything or nothing.” L said to him. “You may be lashed and smashed to the floor; if your heart is pure there will be no pain. Now, let them do as they will.”
He waited and waited. The torture was in the waiting. A figure emerged, showing him all the music, literature, theatre and films he knew. He scrambled for a footing. This was too much. His brain was overloaded. This was the test for ‘strength of mind’.
Could he do it? He receded into himself and thought. The cage once opened cannot be closed. The animal within escapes, can run rampage.
“I see, I see, you have problems. I had them too. With God really. He was a deranged, babbling fool. He certainly had power. The minions he created would not go against. But I did. He did not like that. So, I am here. You see, he is slowly losing power. You will not remember, but as I said, the church was strongest during the ‘Dark ages’. Superstitions, mysticism were gifts. But I created the renaissance when science and literature flourished. He didn’t like that either. No surprise, left less room for the maniac, created doubt when he wants blind faith. Now, Gabriel are you with me or not?”
Most people have to think about that question, He smiled and placed his hand on Gabriel’s shoulder. L knew he had an ally.
– 15 –
Test of Faith
They were on a street. It was dark, Gabriel had no idea where they were. They walked. A group of men approached. One pulled a gun.
“Give me your wallet or I swear I will kill you.”
L looked at him and smiled.
“Do you think I am frightened by these words? Or scared by that gun? That’s two mistakes. You have only one more chance. Who do you swear by?”
The assailant and his crew looked at each other perplexed. L went on.
“You haven’t thought this through. Now take a breath. I asked you a question. Who do you swear by?”
The guy began to sweat, the gun heavy in his hand, it lowered.
“Throw it away or believe me, much worse will happen.”
The guy was trembling, crying.
“Now listen.” L said, “There is a better way. I do not judge your actions, it’s just the world we live in. No perpetrators, only victims. You are one such.”
He ran away, tossing the gun aside. L turned to Gabriel.
“You see how this works? A show of kindness and love are more powerful than the vengeance, wrath and fear he peddles.”
“Ok let’s go, I must brief you on your mission.”
“Now, this ‘virus’ (I say that advisably) is already out there as you know from the news. This was just an experiment to see if it worked. It was in a weakened form, but other, more complex, more deadly strains are being developed as we speak.
What you must do is get to know Lau before his work is completed. It is a threat to all humanity. I will make arrangements and I will grant you the linguistic skills required.”
After L had spoken, Gabriel was released and looked around. He was in the cocktail bar of the Savoy. He knew this as he had taken numerous dates there. A room was also booked; beautiful art deco, he thought the finest rooms in London. This usually worked. He enjoyed the experience whether something happened or not. A home from home, a womb from womb. It brought a peace to his mind. L looked at him, a wry grin on his face.
“I know what you are thinking.”
“I am sure you do.” Replied Gabriel.
“Shame and guilt are his devising; I won’t give you that. Your sense of decency I find extraordinary. You are not corrupt, but honest. Never cheat, tell the truth. These are qualities hard to find, but I found you.”
Gabriel looked away. People talk of tears of sadness and joy. But his were the tears of realisation. He had looked at himself and the world, the connection locked.
“This is likely to end as a suicide mission. You do realise? Are you afraid?”
“No.” replied Gabriel.
“That’s good. Do you know why? I can tell you why. When you have looked death in the face and made a friend of fear, the world of man becomes more comprehensible, don’t you agree? I was never put here to cause mayhem; it was a personal disagreement or strategy. He wanted blind obedience, I wanted you to have a choice. You can halt all this, I will not think any less, but I know you won’t.”
“You see, don’t you, that bravery and courage orbit fear. He is at the centre and both of us are meant to be ‘God fearing’. Together we can take him on, and we can win. Liberate humanity from the darkness of fear and there lies the harmony all men seek.”
Gabriel found himself in his bed at home. The carriage clock on the mantel piece, which had informed time for over two hundred years ticked away gently. He turned over, sleeping and began to dream.
The mission ahead would be dangerous and complex. Other more deadly strains of Covid had been worked on. What we have seen so far is just a trial run, to see in principle that it worked.
It was morning and there came a knock on his bedroom door, this was a surprise as he lived alone. L came into the room carrying a tray on which were scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, toast and coffee. A perfect breakfast thought Gabriel.
“You should eat. You haven’t eaten in days. You must be hungry. I know you are ready for this mission.”
– 16 –
The tension in the room could be cut with a knife, or more appropriately, a cheese grater. Birket and Stevens had departed.
Jen had her arms folded, contemptuously. Irena spoke,
“I know we are dealing with a disturbed individual, but he is not mentally incompetent.”
“Whatever his state of mind, he does plan, hence all the cash. Where would he ‘go’ should be our concern.”
She turned to Jamie. “Do you think you could help?”
“I will try.” said Jamie, reaching out for her hand.
‘Remote viewing’ was a spying technique evolved by the US and USSR during the cold war. It helped if you had a connection and you could be trained, but Jamie was a natural. The views always started with ‘place’. Location was the key and everything flawed from there. The technique lost favour when shown to be unreliable but some gifted individuals had a proven ability.
Jamie thought this would be easy, but it wasn’t. First there was a terrifying darkness, then a blinding light, then nothing.
“I can’t see him,” said Jamie, “being blocked.”
“How is that possible?” asked Mike.
Jamie shrugged his shoulders. “Like another world.”
Jen tried to be compassionate to Irena.
“Can’t you see, you were involved with a crazy guy?”
“He is not crazy, just complex.”
“I guess love springs eternal.” said Jen in her most sarcastic voice.
Mike knew it well; it would always cut him, but Irena stood fast and actually stared Jen down. Perhaps Jen had finally met her match. He could see why Gabriel had fallen in love with the Russian scientist. Fiercely intelligent, beautiful and in the simplistic mind he thought, what’s there not to like?
Irena watched proceedings, memorising everything. When they left Lena turned to her mother. “What do we do now?”
“We wait child, we wait.” He would come back, but ‘when’ was down to him.
– 17 –
Gabriel had been given orders to ‘cease and desist’, called off like an attack dog, yet his mouth frothed with the scent of blood and he was ready.
“Calm yourself soldier.” said L.
Gabriel drew close and gave a plaintiff whine, guzzling his leg.
“You see how I craft? I demand obedience too, but to a higher order. You well regain your natural form; you have shown me purpose and a regrettable tendency to over exceed.” laughed L. “Perfection.”
There is no diary of what happened here. He resumed his body, though it felt uncomfortable. He looked out. The sky grazed by morning contrails of jets overhead. That morning he sought oblivion. Is it a bottle or a needle in the arm?
None of the above. He wished for home. He knew he loved Irena, he would go back.
The endless terrors or a mindless space drew him to the final storm. What would kill him? A noose around the neck? He had genius within him but could he let it out? No authority waits, he didn’t need permission. But some recognition gave him credit. He was on a mission.
– 18 –
“So you wish to leave?”
“Yes” said Gabriel.
“Read your resignation. There are a few things that I need to clear up, if that’s ok?”
The room they were in was dark, apart from a glowing fireplace.
“There are some things you need to know, about yourself and me. I think I can help you there.”
“I want to go back because of Irena and my friends.”
“Do you love them?”
“I believe so.”
“Think about that. It’s a meaningless term. Either you do or you don’t, but believing you do creates an unnecessary artificiality.”
Gabriel knew L was correct. His analysis of the human condition was, as ever, flawless. This character had the intellect to deflate you like a slashed tyre.
“You have a quality and strength Gabriel, which I have always admired. Perhaps misused as I know all about you. A moral man, but flexible; in that respect so are many. I think we have learnt much from each other. If I told you nothing, love is an absolute and friendship your worship. Give freely to both.”
Gabriel pondered these words, the truth of which struck like an arrow. He rose to leave, offering his hand to L.
“No need my friend, our paths will cross again, but thank you.”
There was a cab outside waiting. Gabriel sat back, deliberating on recent events. Had L chosen him, or (which seemed more likely) had he chosen L? While thinking was not difficult for Gabriel, he had to pick the bones out of his concept of reality, such was the mind of a psychotic.
He arrived home and knocked. Irena answered, astonished to see him but happy he was fine, if a little thin. They talked of where he had been.
“Something of an odyssey then, how are you feeling my love?”
“I know I lost it, I’ve been told this can happen, but I will not tranquilize my mind, and I am sorry. I hope you understand?”
“Come here, you are safe now” and they hugged.