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Authors: Chet Williamson

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BOOK: Siege of Stone
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Colin leapt at him then, with all the anger he could muster propelling him forward, and bore him to the floor. He struck Mulcifer full in the face, once, twice, thrice, and then he was grabbed by the others and hauled to his feet.

Mulcifer stood up as well, seemingly unharmed. He looked annoyed, and Colin was jubilant to see that he had at least been responsible for that. He had surprised the monster, and if he had surprised him once, maybe he could again. "I'll destroy you yet, Mulcifer, I swear to God."

"Swear to whatever nonexistent deity you wish. Swear, pray, and curse all you like. It's music to me. So sing your songs of hatred, Mackay, but know you sing to yourself alone. Now, take him away," Mulcifer commanded the men. "I have other things to think about. You are not the only petty nuisance I must deal with today, Colin Mackay."

Chapter 45
 

A
gent Vaughn Weyrman pressed his elbow gently against his side one more time. Yes, the pistol was there, all right. Skye had told both him and Finch not to bring any weapons along to the meeting, but Weyrman had disobeyed. He felt naked without a weapon, especially during such an unpredictable operation. Skye would not tell them who they were meeting, how many would be there, and if they'd be armed or not, and Weyrman didn't want to walk into a hostile situation where they were both outnumbered and outgunned. At least the pistol gave him an edge.

The truth was, he didn't always trust his boss. Why would you trust someone who was running his own operation, and paid you bonuses in cash, and gave you cover stories to use if anyone else in the Company got too nosy? Of course, he could put the shoe on the other foot and ask why Skye should trust him. The answer was, he shouldn't. After all, he'd disobeyed his order not to bring a gun.

 

T
here was a good reason for Skye's request. He had seen firsthand how Mulcifer, if that was his name, could affect people. At least he wouldn't be able to make Finch or Weyrman shoot each other—or him.

Skye walked down the beach, the two agents behind him. To his left, the sun was setting over the waters, but he kept his eyes fixed on the castle that was growing ever closer. Now and then he glanced down at the pebbles on which he was walking, moving right or left to avoid the contact of his wing-tips with the occasional sharp-edged rock that the waves had not yet worn smooth.

There was no sight of Mr. Stanley, and that fact both relieved and disturbed him. He would have preferred that Stanley not be present, for he was uncertain as to his ability to protect him should Mulcifer prove troublesome. At the same time, Stanley's absence suggested that he might have had some sort of mishap on his way there, and that would be more than tragic. Stanley was not only Skye's meal ticket, but his passport to a life most people couldn't even imagine.

At last they were directly beneath the castle, and Skye had the leisure to observe his surroundings. A stone finger that might once have been the foundation of a pier extended thirty feet into the water. Above them the castle's stone walls loomed down from the hundred-foot-high bluff. Thick vegetation covered the rocks, and a steep stairway zigzagged up the side of the cliff, apparently a route to the castle.

Skye's eyes narrowed as he saw a figure appear near the top of that vertiginous route. It was a tall man with light brown, shoulder-length hair and a short beard. He was wearing a cream-colored shirt and light trousers, and came down the steep path with a graceful ease. There was something about the loose yet controlled way the man moved that reminded Skye of Franklin Ames, Skye's mentor in the Company. Ames, now long dead, had drummed into the young Skye the virtues of loyalty and patriotism. Skye's first impression of the man as an ass had never changed, yet his intensity had always frightened Skye.

His reverie was suddenly disturbed by the sound of something moving on the water, and he turned to see a small submarine break the surface a hundred yards off the shore. At first Skye thought that somehow he had been betrayed, but he saw quickly that this was not a government sub, but a personal one. Stanley.

The craft moved toward the shore and stopped next to the stone remnants of the pier. The hatch on top opened, and a man holding an automatic rifle and dressed in a dark pinstriped suit climbed out and stepped onto the finger of rock. He was followed by David Allan Stanley, whose immaculately tailored topcoat and suit beneath could do nothing to disguise the fact that for all his wealth he was one of the most plebeian looking of men.

Stanley frowned as he picked his way carefully over the rocks toward the beach, the man with the gun in the lead. A third man followed, also well dressed and carrying his own weapon. He wore an odd little cap that Skye suspected marked him as the sub's pilot. The three of them reached Skye when Mulcifer was only halfway down the path, and Stanley continued to frown.

"Good to see you, sir," said Skye. "You come in style."

"Stupid goddamn place to hold a meeting," Stanley said in his reedy tenor. "These your boys?"

"Yes sir, Agents Weyrman and Finch."

"They got guns?"

"No sir, they don't."

"I thought you said this guy could be dangerous." Stanley looked up at the descending figure. "That him?" Skye nodded. "Anybody know you're here?"

"No sir."

"Same with me. Didn't let a damn soul know where I was headed. Stakes are too high, we've worked too hard to find this guy. My people probably think I'm meeting with President Chirac tonight."

Skye looked uneasily at the two men with the weapons. Hopefully Stanley could be persuasive enough so that Mulcifer wouldn't get nasty. If the man wanted to dominate the world, David Stanley would be the perfect collaborator.

"His name is Mulcifer," Skye said. "Not
Mister
, just Mulcifer."

"Funny name. Hell, I'll call him Napoleon if that's what he wants."

Mulcifer had arrived at the bottom of the bluff and was crossing the beach toward them, a smile on his face. "Mulcifer," Skye said when he came up to them. "I'm Richard Skye. I talked to you yesterday on the telephone."

"Yes, I know," said Mulcifer. He looked at Stanley. "But I'm unfamiliar with this gentleman."

"I'm David Allan Stanley," the man said, sounding annoyed at not being recognized. "And you're Mulcifer?"

"That's the name."

"I just want to make sure we've got this straight before we go any further," Stanley went on. "You're the one the Catholic Church has been holding prisoner, is that right?"

"
'
Ecce homo
.'"

Stanley cocked his head. "What?"

"'Behold the man.' From the Vulgate."

"Okay, whatever. Is it true that you have all these powers that I've heard about?"

"Why not ask the caretakers of St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey? You might inquire as to the whereabouts of England's Crown jewels. You might even ask among the dead."

Stanley looked uncomfortable now, and Skye felt on edge. He could have told Stanley what he had seen the day before, but he didn't want Mulcifer knowing that the three operatives were still alive.

"I hear you've lived a long time," Stanley said.

"I have. Longer than you can imagine. And when you spend several hundred years of that time in captivity . . ." He closed his eyes, put up his head, and took a deep breath. ". . . Freedom becomes far more sweet, as do the things you can do when you're free. Now, Mr. Skye said he had a proposition for me."

"The proposition is from me," said Stanley jealously. "I think that a partnership between us could be highly beneficial for both of us."

"Explain, please."

"If what I hear is true," said Stanley, "you are the most . . . persuasive individual on this planet. You can make people do things they normally wouldn't do. What I'm offering you is what you might call a center of operations. I don't have just businesses, but a business
empire
, already in place in dozens of major countries, and in as many governments in third-world countries. If you collaborate with me, if we join my wealth and resources and influence with your abilities, we could shake up the world—
control
it.
Own
it."

Mulcifer held up a peremptory hand, and Stanley stopped talking. He tilted his head and looked upward thoughtfully, then back at Stanley. "Why?"

". . . Why what?"

"I need to know why you
want
to control the world."

"Well . . . power . . . unimaginable power and wealth. It's been the dream of every great leader since Alexander."

"And how much wealth do you have now?" Mulcifer asked. "If you sold everything you had, how much cash would you actually have?"

"You mean, if I turned everything liquid? Well, maybe . . . oh, say fifty billion dollars, give or take."

"Fifty billion dollars. And how old are you?"

"I'm fifty-two."

"So if you live through your threescore years and ten—but let's be generous and let you live until eighty-two, say—that's thirty more years of life. That would be one and two-thirds billion dollars a year. Do you really need more money than that?"

"That's not the point—it's the, the
power
."

"No no no, power is what you use to
achieve
the ultimate, but you have no idea what that is. You're merely a greedy little man who always wants more. You want to be able to control any man, bed any woman, have any object you want. You want people to look at your silly, lumpy face and your chubby little body and say, 'There goes God.'" He shook his head sadly. "I really don't think there's any hope for a collaboration between us. Our aesthetic differences are too great.

"Besides, I consider myself self-made, and I have so much fun in the making. As the old clichés say, the joy is in the doing, it's not the destination but the journey, and make sure you kill all the people on the way up so they'll never bring you back down. Why would I want to start at the top, as co-ruler of the world with you? Where would I go from there? And of course there's the best reason of all—I don't like you."

Stanley's face had gone as red as the dying sun, and his jowls were quivering. It was a frightening sight, and Skye would no sooner have spoken than he would have spat in Stanley's eye. So the thought of killing the very man he most feared, with his bare hands, came as a surprise.

Chapter 46
 

I
t was as though a suggestion had come to Skye, a voice had whispered deep inside his brain.
Kill him
, it had said.
Kill Stanley. He is stupid and selfish and a pig, and he will only do the same to you when all is said and done and he no longer needs you. You were trained years ago. You still remember how. Do it. With your bare hands. Now
.

It was absurd, and he tried to push it away, but it kept returning. Then he realized that it was Mulcifer.

Mulcifer was inside his head the same way he had been inside Joseph Stein's. To his horror, he also discovered that he was planning the approach, checking his distance from Stanley, taking his hands out of his pockets, moving his shoulder to see if he had enough room under his topcoat to swing his arm freely in the killing blow.

No, he would not do this. Stanley was talking now, saying something about Mulcifer being a goddamned fool, and that if someday it came to the two of them, he knew damn well which one was going to blink, and that if Mulcifer was smart he'd think twice before insulting somebody like Stanley, because even if Mulcifer didn't give a shit about wealth and power, they could buy things, even buy the life of a smart-mouth bastard who was turning down the biggest opportunity of his life, even if that life had been for hundreds of years . . .

And then Skye was next to Stanley, planting his feet, judging the arc, swinging his hand up and across in the knife blade position, slamming the edge right into Stanley's throat so that it crushed the windpipe instantly, ending Stanley's words and choking off his breath.

Then the man with Stanley shot Skye, a quick reaction blast that sprayed across Skye's midsection, lodging three bullets in his stomach before Weyrman jerked out his pistol and shot Stanley's man twice, right over the heart.

Skye didn't see Stanley's man die. His first thought was of the terrible pain in his gut as he fell to the stones, then anger, pure and naked wrath that he had just killed David Allan Stanley, the man through whom he was to have had unlimited power and wealth, all because this man, this thing, this devil named Mulcifer had hopped inside his head and simply told him to.

BOOK: Siege of Stone
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