In A Land Not Far Away

Learn more about Michael 🙂

Social Freedom.

Once Upon A Time  

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Once upon a time there lived an author named Michael who just had to write.  He had always wanted to write but until he retired he had no time. Work, sailing, naval history and his family took it all up. But still the urge to write was strong in him, so one day he decided that was it, gave up his job and moved to the mountains in the land of ‘Not Far Away’ and began writing.

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He would travel to see his family twice a year, even though the journey was arduous and began to affect his health, but always he was writing it was a hard time. Nothing seemed to be right, the story didn’t fit, the sun didn’t shine and he very often felt he was standing in a corridor he could see no end to, but still he ploughed on.  He had written a story about a friend from memories of…

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The Twelfth Chapter



Chapter Twelve

On to Kamyana Mohyla

Nick and David’s safety was placed under the expert leadership of Nicolai’s trusted lieutenant Kolya Detrenko, a man who’s wiry build and hard lined inscrutable face left no doubt as to his toughness and his cold, no nonsense doggedness, to carry out his boss’s orders to the letter.

Kolya’s manner gave the impression that like his boss, he was not a man to be trifled with within Nicolai’s organization. He had been charged with guarding both Nick and David with his life, and if need be, that was exactly what he would do. He deputized the giant named Victor, who had delivered them to Nicolai’s armed apartment, to act as personal bodyguard to his boss’s future nephew-in-law, to reassure the tearful Katya who wanted her lover kept safe until he could be returned to her loving arms. She took Victor to one side and made it abundantly clear to him by grabbing his manhood in a vicelike grip, to never let David out of his sight for a moment, or he would face far worse consequences from her, than anything her uncle or Kolya would do to him should he fail. Over the following three days, Kolya worked tirelessly with both Nick and David, organizing transport, tents, food and provisions for the long trip southeast to the town of Melitopol, close to the Sea of Azov, where they would set up their headquarters for the operation.


By the end of the month, Nick and David were being driven across the unpaved roads of southern Ukraine for the short journey northeast from Melitopol to the mosquito infested Molochna River valley, and the ancient megalithic site of Kamyana Mohyla. The four wheel drive ex-army truck they were riding in, bounced and lurched its way slowly across the rough scrub covered terrain of the river’s silted up course, threatening to break its overworked suspension system at any second.

“Have you managed to figure out where the entrance is yet David? The place is riddled with underground caves – dozens of them,” Nick wondered.  David ignored Nick’s enquiry for the moment as he poured over a copy of the original map of the subterranean cave complex, which had been drawn in the nineteen-thirties by the leader of a Soviet era archaeological expedition to the site. The young archaeologist in charge back then had first claimed there were thirty caves. But later after the Second World War was over when he was released from military service, he had revised his count by adding a further five.

Fearing Katya’s threat to his masculinity, simple minded Victor never once allowed anything to distract him from his important task of guarding David’s back. He sat in the rear of the truck among the tools that Nick insisted had to be taken along, should they need to dig their way into the complex, with his eyes glued firmly on his charge. He might be a giant of a man, but his fear of failure in both Kolya and Nicolai’s eyes worried him greatly. And now, what Katya had said she would do to him if anything happened to David, worried him even more. Nicolai had taken on the simple giant soon after he appeared from the east, when most of the population of Cernigov had simply dismissed him as a retarded fool. Victor’s allegiance to both Nicolai and Kolya came out of deep gratitude and loyalty to them. He would follow them to hell and back if asked.


Much to the relief of all concerned, the old truck finally lurched to a stop twenty meters from the mixed pile of standing and collapsed stones that marked the site. David, closely shadowed by Victor, immediately began pacing out the whole area, trying to pinpoint the entrance to the cave system according the original survey map of the area, while Kolya’s men set up an armed perimeter to guard the site, and his charges. Nick and Kolya sat on top of one of the large fallen stones and casually surveyed the jumbled pile, looking for clues. “What you do doctor Nick is good, yes?” Kolya inquired.

“Very good; it’s important for the entire world Kolya. If we can’t locate the artefacts and restart the system then the world that you and I know will rapidly decay and disappear,” Nick replied.

Kolya thought for a long time before asking his next question. “Why is time so bad?” he asked, with a clearly puzzled expression on his face. Nick explained what had happened twenty-five thousands years ago when the countdown was begun, and the reason why it had been triggered by Ithis’ people before they left forever.

“So time is not natural, yes?” Kolya asked as his hard face took on a look of concern.

“No. Time as you and I know it is definitely not natural. It was created as a consequence of the countdown Kolya. In the universe beyond our solar system, time means an entirely different thing. Out there it means growth and rebirth, not death like here and now. It is better to think of it as deliberate controlled decay.”

Kolya’s brow furrowed even more as he sat deep in thought once again. “Then we must find all the artefacts you seek. We must put things right again,” he said triumphantly as the clear concept of time which Nick had just explained finally made sense to him.

“Yes my friend we must,” Nick replied.

Kolya nodded and smiled. “Good. We do that,” he said, slapping Nick’s back.

“Nick, over here quick! Victor and I have found an entrance to the cave system. It’s silted up, but we can dig it out,” David shouted from somewhere on the other side of the vast pile of fallen stones. By the time Nick and Kolya arrived, Victor was already stripped to the waist and digging tirelessly like a one man steam shovel into the compacted river silt that had filled the entrance, with David beside him, equally hard at work. By nightfall, work had stopped for the day and the group of men that were not on guard was gathered around the blazing fire of their makeshift camp, singing old Ukrainian songs of courage in battle and drinking copious amounts of the inevitable Vodka. Nick was seated a little way off with his back to one of the truck’s front wheels, going over the cave complex map, and the original archaeologist’s notes which Kolya had done his best to translate into English. Victor sat beside David with one large muscular arm round his charge’s neck; smiling and singing loudly in his drunken Vodka lubricated bass baritone voice with a tear in his eye from the sad words of the songs. If David thought he was going anywhere, Victor’s one armed bear hug drove the thought right out of his mind.


The following morning Victor suddenly awoke in a blind panic. David had vanished! He ran to Kolya and Nick, humbly apologizing for his mistake. Kolya angrily roused the rest of the sleeping camp. None of them would be safe from Nicolai’s wrath if his future nephew-in-law had escaped. Nick went to the half dug out cave entrance while Kolya’s men scoured the surrounding scrubland. He saw that a tiny crawlspace had recently been opened up, revealing a way into the cave complex. “Kolya over here, I think David has gone inside,” Nick shouted. Victor quickly opened up the entrance until it was large enough for him to enter with Kolya and Nick following close behind. When he found David he would make him very sorry for the shame he felt at losing him.

Nick’s torch revealed the remnants of petroglyph inscriptions, placed there thousands of years in the past, during the time when the megalithic complex was a place of refuge and worship. As the three men made their way further into the complex they passed through dozens of caves of all sizes, following a well-trodden ancient path into the darkness beyond their torch’s limits. Victor constantly called out for David. The only response was his powerful voice’s echo bouncing back and forth. Kolya suddenly stopped in his tracks. To one side of the main path he saw the unmistakable fresh footprints that David had left behind minutes earlier. With Victor and Nick following closely behind, he carefully led the way through the maze of caves until their path was cut short by a recent rock fall. Victor roughly pushed his way past and frantically began shifting the fallen rocks. Soon he saw the soles of David’s boots. Kolya and Nick joined the giant in extracting David’s unconscious body from the rock pile. They walked back to the cave entrance with Victor tearfully following on behind, cradling him like a baby. One of Kolya’s men immediately drove the truck containing Victor and David back to Melitopol and its hospital, where the medical staff took charge. Victor remained seated beside David in his hospital bed stubbornly refusing to move, while the other man drove back to the camp with the welcome news that David would be alright, much to Nick and Ithis’ relief. Kolya quietly got drunk. If Nicolai had got wind of what had just happened, his life would have been over.


Over the next several days, Nick carefully surveyed the whole cave complex with Kolya acting as his willing assistant as well as his personal bodyguard. They systematically re-established the location, size and shape of each cave, careful to note anything that may give a clue to the artefact’s possible location. From the notes that David had made from his conversation with Ithis, she said that it sat at the centre of a cave completely out of character to the rest, in that it was crystal lined. The entrance was guarded by a giant underground Dolmen construction. According to what Ithis had said, the outward facing sides of the Dolmen’s three massive stones was covered in petroglyphic writing that she felt sure Nick would recognize. Tired and hungry, the two men returned to the outside world for a good meal, and to get some rest. Their underground survey would continue in the morning.

By midday the following day, Nick and Kolya had almost completed their re-survey of the vast underground complex. According to the original map and notes, there were only three more caves to measure and plot. Nick was busy redrawing the shape of the particular cave he was in when Kolya gave an excited shout from somewhere just ahead.

“Doctor Nick, over here, found big stones!” Nick hurried towards where he could see Kolya’s torch beam, revealing the three massive stones of the Dolmen. He sat carefully looking at the ancient petroglyphs that adorned its outer surface while Kolya hurried back to get some more light to illuminate the whole area. Ithis was correct. There was definitely something very familiar about them. It was almost as if they were an even earlier form of the Sumerian cuneiform script that he had studied minutely back in England. The Russian archaeologist, who had first explored these caves back in the nineteen thirties, thought he saw similarities between the glyphs and the earliest Sumerian cuneiform writing, but couldn’t get his academic colleagues to agree. With the whole area now bathed in bright light from the bank of powerful carbon arc lights Kolya’s men had set up, Nick began to slowly unravel the message before him, heavily incised into the surface of the three massive stones. Whoever it was that carved it into the artefact’s entrance, had left a dire warning and some instructions in the form of a riddle, to prevent unauthorized entry to the cave hidden somewhere behind the Dolmen gateway. Should he get it wrong, the crystal lined cave will be sealed forever! Nick began carefully transposing the entire text onto the back of the map he and Kolya had produced, and then sat down to decipher its meaning while Kolya studied the original for himself.

Their concentration was broken by the unmistakeable sounds of gunfire, somewhere outside. A fire fight had broken out beyond the complex’s entrance. Kolya quickly ran back to the cave entrance and joined his men as they savagely defended the camp from their unseen adversaries. Giving strict instructions to his two most trusted henchmen to guard the cave entrance with their lives, Kolya took charge of the defence of the camp.

Meanwhile inside the cave where the Dolmen gate stood guard, Nick concentrated his efforts into deciphering the riddle. He translated it as best he could into English.

Woe to he whose blood is impure. Let Asima alone block thy path, for none but the pure one may enter. Rebuild the holy anointed. He who holds true will shine within the firmament. Great darkness shall be thy reward should you fail to enter the hallowed sanctuary.

Nick shook his head. Only the last part made any kind of sense to him. Riddles were never his strongpoint… The battle outside was growing in intensity as he briefly closed his eyes, trying to think what the riddle actually meant. Ithis took advantage of the brief moment and rearranged the words of the riddle on the paper while his eyes were closed. When he reopened them, moments later, he knew that she had solved it. “Thanks Ithis,” he said with a relieved grin on his face as he got up and walked towards the peculiar incised language. Tentatively, the fingers of his left hand spread across the symbol for Asima the ancient Sumerian deity. Then with his whole body trembling in anticipation and excitement, he stretched out his right hand to cover the symbol for sanctuary. Steadying himself, he lent his weight against the wall in front of him. Ithis watched nervously as Nick appeared to melt into the solid rock wall between the two massive upright stones of the Dolmen gateway. Her description of the cave was exactly right. The whole thing was a vast naturally formed geode, lined with large, perfectly formed crystals of pure translucent quartz. Nick carefully picked his way past the giant crystal’s points to the space at the geode’s centre, where one large and clearly different crystal stood. Unlike the rest of the geode, this crystal was formed from a different type of crystalline source and was inky black in colour. At its tip it was divided into two separate thin crystalline structures. Nick sat and looked at its construction carefully for a long time. The thin tower on the left differed in its construction and colour to that of the large black crystal it grew out of, as well as its companion tower. It was as if they were two crystalline antennae. “What do I do now?” Nick said to himself, uncertain of his next move.

“Place your hand around the one on your right Nick. And with your left hand, remove the other. Then touch it to the one on the right, before replacing it. Do not let go of either of them until the process is complete,” Ithis’ voice said inside his mind. Nodding his head in thanks, he followed her instructions to the letter before quickly replacing the left hand one back into its socket. Instantaneously the whole geode seemed to come to life, reconnecting itself through unseen pathways to other sub power stations elsewhere beneath the Earth’s surface. “Now quickly leave the way you came before the power level grows to its full capacity and cuts off your retreat, sealing you in there forever!” Ithis’ voice commanded him. Once again he found himself outside the Dolmen gateway in the relative safety of the cave.

He could hear footsteps coming from the direction of the cave complex entrance. Quickly he killed the lights and waited for the intruder to appear, ready to do battle.

“Doctor Nick you are alright?” It was Kolya. As they approached the roaring fire at the centre of their makeshift camp, Kolya waived forward one of his men who held a prisoner, caught during the battle for the camp. He turned his prisoner round and bared the man’s forearm. It bore the unmistakable tattoo of the Order. Nick went back to the fire in troubled silence. He sat eating the plate of food offered to him by one of Kolya’s fighting men. A shot rang out as the Order’s goon met his inevitable fate. Ithis was still troubled. Had someone as yet unknown to her, in the pay of the Order, somehow found out the location?


More later


The Eleventh Chapter

Have We Had Help?



Chapter Eleven

A doubtful sanctuary

Shadowy black fingers cast by the old buildings of medieval Tallinn’s narrow side streets, gave the ghostly, almost claustrophobic impression, of closing in as if they were trying to force Nick and David into the light at the centre of the street as the two men followed their route to the safe house. They silently entered the walled garden of the safe house and melted into the shadows beside its cellar door. David carefully and quietly drew back the bolt that held the two halves of the door together and pulled open one side, allowing Nick to descend down the steps into the darkness, before silently lowering the door as he joined him in the cellar. Motioning Nick to follow, he led the way courtesy of the small torch in his hand, along a narrow corridor that led to the kitchen and the old…

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If you don’t want to be taken to task by idiots, get your facts straight!


Why? Because there are sad individuals with nothing better to do than look for errors in any given book you’ve written, no matter the format. People like that are an unfortunate fact of life if you are a published author…


If you have been reading the chapters as I post them here every other day, and not merely ignoring them, you will know that I’m currently re-working my best seller from 2012. This time with a brand new cover and title as well. Why am I doing this? Well, for one thing to introduce it to a whole new audience who aren’t aware of it in its original form for reasons known only to themselves. The other, and by far the most important reason, is to make necessary corrections. Particularly when it comes to the facts and historical events I employ as well as the names of the actual places mentioned.

At the time of publishing the original back in 2012, I was taken to task by one particular individual for misspelling the name of the archaeological dig site pictured above – Göbekli Tepe. I suppose I should consider myself lucky that it was all he could pull me up on. The story itself was attacked by a couple of mentally deficient idiots, in other words – trolls, hellbent on taking a cheap shot. One of them likened it to nothing more than a travelogue, which it isn’t by the way. While the other showed himself up as a total moron when his review consisted of asking one question concerning Ithis the cryptoterrestrial heroine, “who is I this?”

I would have dearly loved to take both of them to task for their sheer stupidity. But as all writers know, you never ever engage with idiots and their so-called book reviews!

Will I be publishing it as a paperback as well as an e-book, for the sake of my countrymen and women who prefer holding a book in their hands to reading it on whatever e-book reading device may be available to them? I’m sorry, but the answer is no. It was born as an e-book for the American market, and that is the way it will remain…

😉 Author’s Golden Moment.. are you THAT Mister Gallacher?…

From Seumus 😉

Seumas Gallacher

…fame, infamy, notoriety, call it as yeez will, comes in many forms… those of yeez who honour me by following this Blog regularly will know I’m no stranger to the promotional requirements of being a scribbler… indeed, I ceaselessly harp on about the efficacy of being public… of being present… the use of the SOSYAL NETWURKS, the availability for magazine features, Guest Speaker engagements at various Societies, Book Clubs, colleges, schools and universities, formal signings at retail bookshops, and generally, just being out there in Readership Land… all these are grist to the mill for the modern writer… but every now and then, along comes an incident that just blows my mind… two nights ago, I had reserved a dinner booking with some close friends… the restaurant, Teatro, is housed in Downtown Rotana, one of Bahrain’s newest and excellent hotels… a couple of hours before getting ready…

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The Tenth Chapter



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


The Ninth Chapter



Chapter Nine


Plainly, normal border crossings were now completely out of the question for reasons of safety and security. The mental spanking David endured while he slept, when Ithis angrily entered his mind uninvited to prove a point about careless talk and Nick’s welfare, clearly had the desired effect on him. He resolved that from now on and in the future, he would keep his mouth shut regarding the artefact locations when dealing with his network of informers and contacts, not wishing to incur her wrath ever again. For the next few days, Nick and David poured over a large map of continental Europe spread out on the dining table, working out the best route to take, avoiding all manned border crossings between France, Belgium and the Netherlands. For the first time since the whole operation had begun, Nick relaxed for a few hours while David organized the guides necessary for the long trip north to Borger-Odoorn in the north-eastern part of the Netherlands, close to the town of Assen in the province of Drenthe.

“How fit are you?” David enquired absentmindedly one day, as he constantly checked and rechecked the main route to be used, plus the two others chosen as alternatives, in case of trouble.

“Reasonably so, why do you ask?” Nick replied suspiciously.

“Hmm? Oh nothing,” David began, “Just thinking ahead, covering all contingencies. Forget it. It’s not really a problem…” His voice trailed off as he channelled all of his attention to the problem of organizing a waterborne mode of transport for part of the journey. Obviously he was still rattled after Ithis’ invasion of his mind the other night regarding Nick’s safety. He worked tirelessly for the next several hours, checking and rechecking every step of the forthcoming perilous journey he and Nick would be taking, until he was satisfied that he had dotted all the ‘I’s’ and crossed all the ‘T’s’ to Ithis’ satisfaction. The one factor he could not guard against however, was the unknown.


The following morning saw David driving a rusting Citroën 2CV borrowed from his host’s garage, with Nick seated alongside carefully navigating their circuitous route across the northern French countryside to avoid all the main roads. Instead, they relied on the secondary country roads with little traffic that passed through small rural towns and villages, as they drove steadily towards Maubeuge in north-eastern France, close to the border with Belgium. This was where they finally ditched the car in one of the town’s backstreets, before locating the barge that would take them unseen on the second leg of their journey along the river Meuse to Charleroi, and beyond through Belgium.

The barge’s skipper and owner Frederick Messier was the fifth generation of his family to make his living transporting goods along the river’s twisting course through Belgium’s countryside close to the border with Germany, and on into the Netherlands via the connection made by the canals to the north. Over the next few days, David and Nick took turns at the wheel at night. During the day, they occupied their time below deck in the tiny galley in the comfortable accommodation area of the barge’s cavernous stern, making copious cups of coffee and meals for all on board. Frederick had never met David until now. But like many within his willing network, he had been recruited to the cause by his blog ‘Time Reversed’ plus his firm belief in what David had uncovered about the whole concept of time slowing down, or as Nick had put it – controlled decay. He was fascinated by the fragments of the endeavour that Nick fed him. He took especial pleasure over Nick’s obvious enthusiasm for the ancient Sumerian sites he had visited in the Middle East years before, and his extensive knowledge gleaned during his postdoctoral days, while working in the British Museum’s dusty vaults. All this open conversation between Nick and Frederick was too much for David to endure as he now feared some kind of further painful retribution from Ithis.

By the end of the week, the barge’s blunt wooden bow was steadily pushing northward along the Kanaal Wessem in southern Holland to the small town of Helmond, just outside Eindhoven, where Frederick’s cargo would be discharged. A few kilometres south of Helmond, he briefly slowed his barge’s progress and ran close to the eastern bank of the canal allowing his two passengers to jump ashore unseen, thanks to the thick fog covering the canal and the surrounding countryside, before he continued on to his destination. Nick and David headed across country through the welcome mist that shielded them from curious eyes, crossing lonely country roads and the railway line at Deurne during the early hours of darkness. At last in the distance, they saw the prearranged welcoming light from a small paraffin lamp left in the upstairs window of a small cottage, signalling that it was safe for them to approach. The cottage’s door was quickly opened and closed behind them as David’s Dutch contact Willem de Lange welcomed his guests into the warmth of his home. His wife Gerda had laid out a sumptuous meal for them before excusing herself for the night as the three men discussed the immediate task of getting Nick safely to Borger-Odoorn. Willem’s worried frown gave a hint of what he was about to say even before he spoke. “Our police know of your presence here in the Netherlands my friends, or at least they suspect you are close to arriving,” he said as his brow creased even more than normal, accentuating the heavy lines in his weather-beaten face.

“What makes you say that Willem. Do they know about Borger-Odoorn?” Nick enquired.

“No. But with the Interpol alert and Davies’ goons stepping up their search for possible artefact sites, and given that we have several ancient megalith sites like Borger-Odoorn here in the Netherlands, it will only be a matter of time before it is targeted,” Willem stated, emphasizing the point by smashing one large gnarled fist into the palm of the other. “To succeed we have to move you quickly Nick. David must stay here hidden in our loft until you have reactivated the artefact. I have arranged for him to be taken across the border to Germany where he will be hidden until you re-join him. Don’t worry; my brother Jens will accompany you Nick. If there is any fighting to be done, Jens will take care of it. Now get a few hours’ sleep. We have a predawn start tomorrow.” Willem then showed them to the loft where two comfortable beds beckoned them for the night.


The next morning, Jens’ refrigerated DAF truck drove through the early morning gloom of central Holland, heading for the Rhine crossing at Nijmegen. Nick lay uncomfortably cramped and shivering, despite the faint heat transmitted through the thin aluminium sheeting of his hiding place in the pod above the cab, from the truck’s chiller unit outside. Behind the insulated partition that shielded him from the worst effects of the truck’s chilled interior holding its cargo of cut flowers, Jens had installed a single red light bulb; not for Nick’s convenience, but to warn him if they were driving into trouble.

Inevitably the time came when the truck was flagged down by a policeman dressed in a day glow yellow jacket. Jens slowed to a standstill at the temporary roadside police vehicle inspection point, moments after he had flicked the light switch twice to warn his passenger. “Odometer check – papers!” the police sergeant in charge demanded abruptly, as he held out his gloved hand. Jens handed over his international driving license, the truck’s tax disc paperwork and registration as well as the cargo waybill for inspection. He watched from the truck cab’s side mirror, feigning disinterest while the sergeant closely inspected the paperwork looking for any irregularities. A second police officer made a cursory inspection of the odometer at the centre of the rear wheel before quickly disappearing behind the truck. Seconds later he indicating to his sergeant that the rear door of the truck’s chilled interior was firmly locked.

“Out!” the sergeant barked. “Unlock the back for inspection. Move yourself!”

Jens climbed down from his cab and went to the rear of the truck where he unlocked the heavy padlock and opened the door. “Don’t take too long officer, my cargo will spoil,” Jens pleaded, hoping he sounded convincing, as he was roughly pushed aside by the second officer armed with a torch and a riot baton. From his hiding place Nick could hear the policeman roughly shoving his way through the trays of delicate flowers frantically searching the entire contents. Then he heard the door being slammed shut and locked, and soon the light came on as Jens continued his journey. The tattoo on the sergeant’s wrist, which was exposed as he handed back Jens’ paperwork had not gone unnoticed. His negative report would not please Davies or Interpol.

After Nijmegen, the trip north via Arnhem and Zwolle was largely uneventful. By the early hours of the following morning, Nick was suddenly woken by the screech of the truck’s wet brakes as Jens turned off the main road just south of Meppel and headed east to Hoogeveen before finally heading north, eventually stopping behind a house on the outskirts of Assen. At long last he could finally stretch his half frozen and bruised limbs in front of the roaring fire in the cosy kitchen, while Jens and the owner of the house spoke quietly for a few moments. “Nick, this is Jacob. He will take you to the site. I have to continue on and get rid of my load. I’ll be back tonight to take you to your next destination.” The uncertainty and concern shown on Nick’s face made him add, “Don’t worry my friend, you’re in good hands. Jacob will protect you with his life I promise you. I’ll see you tonight.”


Jacob led the way silently across country through a system of pathways along the top of old dykes and across waterlogged meadows to the ancient megalithic monument at Borger-Odoorn. The pile of giant stones was arranged in a large T shape, with the entrance at the end of one arm of the T. Jacob hid himself just inside the entrance, armed with a shot gun and a Second World War German luger pistol that his father had liberated from a dead SS officer, after he had killed him in the latter stages of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, while Nick moved to the monument’s centre. According to David’s notes, the entrance this time was beneath a square stone block that stood at the centre of the T. Nick sat for a long time staring at the stone’s sides and top searching for some kind of clue, before finally noticing a tiny indentation at the centre of the stone’s top surface surrounded by a swirling continuous pattern. Carefully he cleared away the centuries of dirt that had accumulated in it, burying the indentation, hiding it in plain sight. Then he climbed onto the top of the stone and squatted down on his haunches with his torch firmly trained on the now relatively clean indentation. About two centimetres below the surface of the stone, his torch revealed two finger sized holes approximately four centimetres apart. Steadying himself he inserted the first two fingers of his right hand into the holes. Almost immediately the stone began to slowly sink below ground level until it was well below the dark passageway inside the monument. Once it had stopped its descent Nick swung his torch around the chamber that he now found himself in. In one corner was another booster substation just like the other two he had already reactivated. Ithis watched with satisfaction as he brought it back to life once more, before climbing back onto the stone for the return trip to the surface via the use of the fingertip operated mechanism of the stone.

That night back in Jacob’s house, Jens told Nick about the arrangements made for the next leg in his search for the network artefacts. He also reiterated what happened with the Dutch policemen in the inspection fiasco, laid on courtesy of the Order and the Dutch police force, who were clearly stopping every suspect vehicle in the hope of getting lucky. If only they had known that he was on board. Jacob opened a bottle of Schnapps and the trio silently toasted the continued success in the long race still ahead of Nick and David, to prevent the countdown to destruction. Jens would take Nick to the northernmost town of Delfziji for the Ems estuary crossing by ferry to Emden in Germany in two days’ time, after he had secured safe passage for him to where David would be waiting anxiously.


More later