Book I: Chapter 24
The next day, I got yet another vision, but instead of giving me some answers, it only added to my confusion.
Tell me what YOU think is going on here…
<CLANG! BANG!> The thundering sound caused a man strapped to a bed to wake up – it was Alan.
But just where was he? I could tell that Alan had no clue and I was unable to make out much from his lonely surroundings.
The last thing I remember about Alan was that he had collected his Nail from the CEC Catacomb vault and was on his way to see Joseph – until he got jumped by a bunch of goons.
After that I didn’t see him again – until now.
“Ah, finally you’ve decided to join us,” a metallic voice blared through a loudspeaker affixed to a nearby wall. “I trust your stay has been pleasant? No? Oh well, please feel free to take it up with management. Oh yes, that’s me. Well, your complaint has been duly noted. Thank you.”
(Now who the hell is this joker?)
“Wha–?” Alan began. “Who are you? Is this The Vatican?”
“Please save all your questions till the end of the tour.” The voice continued. “Now, if you don’t mind, let’s begin.”
Alan tried to sit up – only to discover that he was bound to his bed.
“Oh, did I forget to mention that?” The voice said. “Well, that’s merely a precaution – for your own safety. Not your safety from anything to do with the virus, mind you, but for, well let’s just say…other reasons. And to answer your question – No, this is not The Vatican.”
Although he was a prisoner, I could tell that Alan was more annoyed than frightened. Did he remember the conspiracy theories he and Teri had been discussing back in Bucharest? Was he worried about the personal safety of his friend Pope Benedict? Did he think he’d been nabbed by contact tracers and taken into the shadow world of the UN Quarantine Camps? I didn’t know the answers to those questions, but I could see he was no mood to banter with some halfwit captor.
“What do you want with me?” Alan asked.
“Master Alan Zarus, until recently, the Sef de Catadre of Bucharest University’s History Department. Prior that, you were at Antioch. And before that, Jerusalem – serving 15 years there. Then let’s see, oh yes, before that you were in the New World – at UCLA, Loyola of Chicago, and Saint Bonaventure. Nearly a decade at each – hmm, very interesting.”
Alan remained silent. (I knew he wasn’t liking where this was going).
“What I don’t understand is the timeline.” The voice replied slyly. “I’ve just rattled off a period of no less than seventy-five years – seventy-five! — yet, you don’t look a day past forty. What’s your secret, man? Are you using a mountain of Oil of Olay? Have you discovered the Fountain of Youth? No, I’ve got it — you must have the Holy Grail!”
“Clearly you have me confused with someone else.” Alan replied without emotion. “I was only an intern at Jerusalem and prior to that had no professional history.”
“Oh yes, and I am a retired investor on a pension, living here as a Jew in the twilight of my life.” The speaker quipped (are we quoting movies now?), “Come off it, man. We both know that’s a lie. If you hadn’t been so damned overconfident you would have changed your identity. You didn’t — you simply changed your locale. Did you really think we wouldn’t find you, Laz—ah, perhaps I’ll save that.”
Alan flinched, but did not reply.
“I DID see that, by the way.” The voice slithered. “But, I didn’t need that to confirm anything.” (Obviously his captor knew Alan was Lazarus. Oops, hope I didn’t just ruin the suspense for you).
“What do you want?”
“We’re not there yet. I’m having too much fun. Now where was I? Oh yes, this impresses me – you’re quite the secret society buff; and I’m not just talking research, you’re active! Let’s name just a few, shall we… first there’s the prestigious Club of Rome – ooh. And let’s not forget The Committee of 300 – obviously very selective. I’m impressed — especially since I was active in those too. But, by now, you knew that right, Brother?”
(There’s that damn Brotherhood again — don’t worry, I’ll get to that).
Alan sighed. “I can see you have quite an imagination.”
“Is that so? Then, I’m sure you won’t have any concerns about this.”
On cue, the door to Alan’s room opened. In walked an otherwise non-descript middle-eastern man, he wore a surgical mask (apparently he never got the memo about how dangerous those cancer cloths were) and was clothed in a simple black robe. Standing silently, he held a silver platter, while looking vacantly at the far wall.
Alan’s eyes went to the object on the tray – a wooden caisse about a foot long. (I’ll bet you know what that is. This is not a good sign).
Alan struggled to break free, “Damn you!”
“Ah, something finally has registered.” The speaker jeered. “Come now, did you really think I didn’t know about It?” Then instructing the attendant, “Go ahead, Iffat, open the case.”
(Ah, that’s a BIG mistake).
“NO!” Alan urged. “Don’t do it, man. It’s a death sentence.”
Iffat didn’t heed Alan’s warning, instead he opened the tiny black coffin, revealing the lone object inside – an iron rod nestled amidst red velvet.
At this point, the speaker advised, “All right, Iffat, you can close the box.” (Wise move).
The servant did as commanded and then left the room – despite his protests Alan was powerless to stop him. Yet the interrogator laughed, “Don’t worry, my men won’t touch the Nail – they know better… now. I just wanted you to know your prize was safe. Soon, I’ll have the two held by your friends… And YOU will help me get them.”
(So he wants my Nail too? Fine by me. Come and get it).
Yet Alan didn’t agree, “NEVER! I’ll never help you!”
Harsh laughter boomed from the speaker in reply.
Alan screamed, “What do you want?”
Still no answer came forth.
“Who are you?” Alan tried again.
Finally, the voice replied, “You know who I am, Brother Lazarus.”
Showing no emotion or further surprise, Alan closed his eyes and simply stated, “You are The Beast.”
At that, the door opened, and in walked…
Just then the vision ended… BEFORE I could get a look at The Beast’s face!
Who was it?
Could it really be… Joseph?