The Tenth Chapter

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~~~

Chapter Ten

On the road to Ale’s Stones

A middle aged German priest stepped forward through the crowd of passengers walking up the ferry’s gangway to assist his elderly ecclesiastical visitor from Holland to shore. “Willkommen bruder, willkommen,” the priest said, as he embraced the old man, happy to see his friend once again.

“Vielen dank,” the old monk replied breathlessly, leaning heavily on his walking stick while the priest took his free arm and linked it in his. The two friends slowly made their way at the older man’s shuffling pace through the riverside streets of Emden towards a small house in the grounds of the local parish church. The younger man opened the door and showed the elderly servant of God into the back kitchen of his modest home. “God, I’m glad that’s over,” Nick said as he began removing his heavy disguise courtesy of Jacob’s expertise and ingenuity.

“Have you seen yourself in the mirror lately?” David asked, smirking at the aged spectacle standing before him.

“I’m just glad that it was you that met me. If I’d had to hold any kind of conversation in German, I would have been sunk. I almost came a cropper on the ferry when an old biddy took my hand and kissed it while crossing herself. I only know a few words like please and thank you, so all I could think of was to lay my hand on her head and make the sign of the cross,” Nick replied, grinning at the apparition clothed in monk’s attire, staring back at him from the mirror.

David left for a short time to check that the arrangements for their journey with his local German guide were in hand while Nick went upstairs to the bathroom. Before he left, David reminded him to stay away from the windows in case of observation from the street. From her hiding place in the internal wall of the bathroom, Ithis watched completely entranced as Nick slowly undressed and stepped into the tiny shower cubicle beside the old enamel bath. Her eyes softened their normal cold appearance. Their large pupil’s light green colour deepened to a dark emerald. Deep inside her, yet another new sensation, this time of physical longing, spread throughout her as she allowed herself for the briefest of moments, to experience the pure pleasure of seeing the man she so desperately desired, totally naked as he showered. Her brief moment of sexual fantasy was irrevocably shattered when David knocked on the bathroom door, much to her great annoyance.

“Nick, we have to leave in an hour. See you downstairs in ten minutes.”

~~~

Hidden from view in the back of an old Volkswagen campervan, Nick and David rested as best they could in the van’s cramped confines, while David’s German guide drove them across country to the small Baltic coastal town of Wismar. The long journey by road took several hours as they skirted round the major towns of Bremen and Hamburg, following the North Sea coastal roads through Wilhelmshaven to Cuxhaven, before crossing north of Hamburg to Neumunster and on to Oldenburg. Here the Volkswagen finally turned south and east, following the Baltic coastal road past Lubeck to Wismar where a boat had been made available for their journey to southern Sweden. The boat put to sea, one of many heading out for another long night of fishing in the teeth of a steadily building force five gale. Below deck, its two passengers soon succumbed to the inevitable combination of the fishing boat’s violent motion and choking diesel fumes, both of them praying for their journey to be over. A few hours later the boat briefly put into the Swedish coastal town of Ystad to unload its human cargo; before returning back into the night to its allotted fishing ground. David’s Swedish contact Nils quickly spirited his two charges away into the night to his home in the quiet lakeside town of Vaxjo, deep within the wooded countryside of southern Sweden. Nils told them that the way was being prepared for the trip to Ale’s Stones near Kåseberga, around ten kilometres southeast of Ystad. But first there was a problem to overcome. The Order’s goons where already staking out the site, in the hope that the boat shaped group of standing stones would soon be visited. “According to my sources, the Order has almost every megalithic site in Sweden covered by now I’m afraid,” Nils said, with a note of resignation in his voice.

“What are your plans, can you call on help to distract the Order’s men while Nick goes to work?” David enquired.

Nils fell silent for a moment, deep in thought. “There may be a way to solve the problem. Why don’t you and Nick rest here for a day while I check out the lay of the land? I will come up with something I promise,” he said. “Although, it may place us all in great danger. The only idea I have in mind at the moment may prove to be extremely risky,” he added finally, with a strange look on his face.

“David, have you or any other members of our organization been able to establish who is involved within the inner circle of the Order?” Nick wondered. “We know that the Order’s English representative is Malcolm Davies. What about the other members? Do we know who they are and in what country they reside? Perhaps if one of them could be targeted in some way, it would offer a distraction, however brief, now or in the future,” he continued.

David nodded his head in silently agreement with Nick’s suggestion for a diversion in the future, before adding, “Davies is the public face of the Order, at least in the UK. I don’t believe that even he knows who his masters are. The thing that really bothers me is the rapid build-up of foot soldiers recruited to the cause by his cronies across the world. The only thing most of them have in common, besides their primitive need to use extreme violence, is their passion for money. Thanks to the Order there is a hell of a lot of it available for their recruiting drive.”

“Could they be turned by a better offer?” Nick suggested hopefully.

“I seriously doubt that,” Nils replied. “The vast majority are recruited from violent neo-Nazi groups across Europe and from their equivalent fascist brother organizations across the planet.”

While Nils was away, David and Ithis argued between themselves over how she would protect Nick if he was likely to be placed in grave danger at the site. The main problem with Ale’s Stones is its exposed barren nature. Even if they approached during the hours of darkness, anyone using night vision gear would see them coming for at least a kilometre in any direction because the megalithic site sits on an open plain surrounded by scrub and parched grassland. The nearest forest cover is almost half a kilometre away. Some kind of diversion had to be put in place. But until Nils returned they could do nothing further. Then a thought suddenly occurred to David. What if the surrounding forest was set alight? If Nils or one of his local team phoned the nearest fire brigade, moments after the flames began to take hold, maybe, just maybe, the added distraction would be enough to allow Nick to quickly enter and reactivate the hidden artefact. He put his idea to Nils when he returned a few hours later.

~~~

The following night, the conflagration had been arranged. David and Nick watched the site from inside Nils’ old Volvo estate. A little distance away from the car, three armed shadowy figures were making their way stealthily towards the car and its occupants, completely unobserved. It was few minutes before ten o’clock. A dull red glow slowly intensified as the forest fire took hold. The furtive figures rapidly retreated back into the shadows, melting into the darkness of the night when the road and the old Volvo was suddenly lit up by powerful headlights, accompanied by the ghostly wail of a fire-engine’s siren as it approached fast from the direction of Malmo in the southwest. Nick watched the area surrounding the stone monument through Nil’s binoculars. The Order’s goons completely vanished from sight when the first fire engine turned off the road and roared across the grassy plain where the monument stood. Within a minute it was closely followed by two more, sent to attend the now out of control roaring wall of flame that lit the whole area, showering the surrounding countryside with a rain of hot sparks. With David keeping an eye out for trouble, Nick entered the boat shaped monument and ran to the tallest stone at the southern end of the megalithic structure. Ithis moved away from the monument. Something troubling close to the conflagration had caught her eye.

At almost head height, Nick could just make out a single carved line in the form of a spiral illuminated by the flames. At its centre was a minute, irregular shaped hole that to anyone else would have seemed a natural flaw in the stone. He quickly inserted his index finger into the hole and pressed it firmly until he felt a slight movement through the pad of his fingertip. By the time they had returned to Nils’ home, the ancient boat shaped megalithic site was slowly reverting to its original condition and the parched grassy plain that it stood on began to change. By midmorning the following day, the whole area was covered in lush grasses and wild flowers.

~~~

Nils waived farewell to the two figures standing on the upper quarterdeck of the Stockholm to Tallinn ferry. As soon as he got home he picked up his phone, milliseconds away from filing his report to the Order on their abortive attempt at killing Nick and David, and the fact that David’s careless talk had yet again revealed their next destination. The phone suddenly clattered to the floor when his lifeless body crumpled in a heap. Ithis hissed with loathing as her eyes’ emotionally charged pupils slowly changed back to their normal light green colour. Seconds earlier they had shown her uncontrollable anger, shining like intensely bright yellow searchlights, when she coldly executed the traitor who now lay dead in a widening crimson pool of blood seeping from his eyes, ears, nose and mouth, at her feet. No one but her had seen his traitorous act, nor noticed the tattoo on the heel of his left foot. With her cat-like eyesight she had seen it at the precise moment Nils got down on his haunches behind one of the trees at the forest edge. When his left heel rose out of his oversized orthopaedic slip-on shoes, exposing the incriminating tattoo and spelling out his betrayal, he had signed his own death sentence. His mistake that night was not wearing socks.

~~~

More later

😉

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