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Authors: Chet Williamson

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BOOK: Siege of Stone
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When he looked up again, he saw the man in the pilot's cap just standing there holding his unraised weapon, a blank look on his face. Weyrman was pointing his pistol at the man and shouting at him to drop the gun, but he didn't, and Weyrman shot him in the head, then swung the pistol around on Mulcifer.

"Go ahead!" Skye grunted out. "Shoot him!"

"No, don't do that," Mulcifer said. "That would be annoying." Then he looked down at Skye, who was trying to press the blood that was leaking out of him back into his stomach. "That was a very nice demonstration, Mr. Skye. Nice to see your old skills haven't left you. Mr. Stanley was becoming quite irksome. Thank you for your prompt obedience." He walked toward Weyrman. "Well, you're the one with the gun. What would you like to do at this point?"

"I . . . Jesus Christ, I . . ." Weyrman seemed near panic, and Skye didn't blame him. It was only the wounds in his gut that kept him as focused as he was.

"Weyrman," Skye said, "get me some help. Call a doctor, for God's sake."

"Are you going to listen to him, Agent Weyrman?" Mulcifer asked. "The man who killed David Allan Stanley, one of the most important men in the world? Why, this man is nothing but an assassin, isn't he?"

"Y . . . yes," Weyrman said.

"So as a representative of the U.S. government who has just witnessed the assassination of a U.S. citizen, would it not be best to arrest the perpetrator?"

Weyrman nodded unsurely. Then he seemed to find strength. "Finch, get that guy's gun," he said, pointing to Stanley's dead bodyguard. "Sorry, Mr. Skye. We're going to have to take you in."

"Take me
in
?" Skye moaned. "You idiot, I'm not going to
live
long enough if you don't get me help! I am
bleeding
to
death
."

But Weyrman went on, as if thinking it through. "You, uh, you brought us here, ordered us here, and we thought it was to capture this individual, yeah." He nodded at Mulcifer. "But then you killed Mr. Stanley, and, and
you
shot the bodyguards."

"No no," said Mulcifer, "that won't do at all. Agent Weyrman, both you and Agent Finch
knew
that Mr. Skye was acting unofficially. In fact, you've both been taking money from him for several years now. You've been traitors to your country."

"How . . . how did you know that?" Weyrman asked.

"Agent Weyrman, Mr. Skye's mind is an open book to me. I look in and read what I want." He looked down at Skye's bleeding stomach. "However, I fear this book is in its final printing. At any rate, you two mustn't be allowed to profit from your sins. Come, let's dig a grave."

He led them away from the water and up beyond the stones to where the ground became sandy. There were two shovels lying there, and he told Finch and Weyrman to dig a hole, not too deep, but wide and long enough to hold a body. Although confused, they obeyed, looking at each other several times as if asking why they were doing this.

Back on the stones, thirty feet away, Skye watched them, his hands pressed to his stomach, feeling his life dripping away as surely as his dreams had. He would never be rich now, never be in the position of power not only to tell his superiors to go to hell, but to put them there. He was dying slowly, and the experience gave him leisure to think about things he would rather not have thought about, about loyalty and patriotism and his country, all those things Franklin Ames had preached to him about.

Skye had turned his back on those things, and at the end had lived for himself alone, himself and his new mentor of greed and power, David Allan Stanley. And then, just like that, he had killed Stanley. It had been as though the Imp of the Perverse had entered his mind and had him perform the single most self-destructive act imaginable. He had all too obviously underestimated this Prisoner, this being. This devil.

It was only fitting that he be destroyed by a devil, since he had sold his soul to one, and become a devil himself in the process. All his sins sat upon him as heavily as the weight of his coming death upon his heart, and he closed his eyes and tried to remember what praying was like. He had not prayed since he was a child, and although he expected it to have no more effect now than it had then, he prayed nonetheless.

He tried to remember his many sins, and asked anything listening for forgiveness from them. He prayed for the souls of the people he had caused to die, not knowing if they might be there when—if—he crossed from life to death. He hoped they would not be. Many of them were as cruel and as hard as he was, and much less forgiving than any god.

Skye wept from the effort of praying, from the pain in his belly, from the thousand things trying to push their way into his head and divert him from his last desperate chance, his last thoughts of piety and repentance and redemption, his last dying hopes. If he could only put these other things away, he thought, all these guilts and terrors, if only he could focus clearly on coming face to face with a kind and forgiving god, then he would be all right.

He thought about how to do it, and then remembered the songs he had learned in the Sunday school to which his parents had taken him before he had finally refused to go any more. "'What . . . a friend . . .'" he started to say, and then the tune came back to him, and he began to sing softly, pain coming with every word:

 

What a friend we have in Jesus,

All our sins and griefs to bear,

What a privilege to carry

Everything to God in prayer . . .

 

Those were all the words he could recall, but the fact that he had managed to pull them out of that dark corner of his brain where they had been buried for over forty years was miracle enough. He kept singing them softly to himself, over and over again, until he heard the gunshot.

Then he looked up and saw Finch falling down and not moving again, and Weyrman, the pistol in his hand, looking at the body in horror. Skye tried to press harder against his stomach, but his strength was waning, and it was harder to push back the pain. He looked down again, and started to sing some more, the same words over and over again. Then he heard a laugh, and looked up to see Mulcifer and Weyrman standing over him.

"Oh my," said Mulcifer, a broad grin covering his face. "'What a friend we have in Jesus'? Don't tell me we have a deathbed conversion here, Mr. Skye? I've heard of such things, but never seen one before. You're actually feeling guilty, aren't you? But why? Do you really think that you'll see some god after you die, and that he'll judge your actions while you were alive?"

Skye didn't answer. Instead, he forced out the words of the song.

Mulcifer laughed long and hard, and seemed genuinely amused. "I hate to disappoint you, but you'll meet nothing and no one. You will cease to exist, which, for those who have lived, certainly has to be the most dreadful thing imaginable, far more than an eternity of hell. After all, one can accustom oneself to flames, perhaps even enjoy them after an eternity or two. But how does one accustom oneself to annihilation?"

". . . All our sins and griefs to bear . . ."

"Yes, well, you bear your sins and griefs, and Agent Weyrman will bear you."

Pain spiked through Skye's body as Weyrman put his hands under Skye's arms and dragged him across the pebbles and up the beach to the shallow grave. Every inch brought agony to Skye's body, and he tried to ignore the motion, to center on the song and the entreaty behind it, the prayer that neither nonexistence nor torment be his lot.

Then he felt himself falling. It was only a short distance, but the impact of landing was like having a giant fist pounding down on his entire body. He screamed, and the screaming brought more anguish, so that he could only lie there, the hymn forgotten, while the madness that the pain had brought slowly drained away.

Then, while all the world was a red sky before his eyes, he heard Mulcifer telling Weyrman to load all the bodies—Stanley, his two men, and Finch—onto the submarine, then pilot it out into deep water, release all the air, turn off the engine, and allow it to sink.

Skye didn't know whether Weyrman obeyed the directive or not, but when his eyes were finally able to see again, only Mulcifer was there, standing on the edge of the narrow, shallow grave, looking down at him. "I don't know why I've kept you for last, Mr. Skye, while the rest of them sink into the deep, never to be seen again. Perhaps it's because I think you're the worst of the lot, so we have a great deal in common, or perhaps because you've been searching for me for so long that I feel I owe you my presence while you can still enjoy it."

Skye closed his eyes, and tried to sing his song, but was only able to whisper it harshly. "'What . . . a friend . . . we have . . .'"

"You have no friends, Mr. Skye." Mulcifer crouched by the grave so that his face was close to Skye's, and spoke softly. "You never did. You die alone and forsaken, and do you know what? Nobody cares. Not one person in this whole world cares that you're dead, just as no one ever cared that you lived."

Sudden anger flared in Skye, and he reached toward Mulcifer's face, his fingers clawed to rip the creature's eyes away. A garbled sound of hatred escaped his throat, and Mulcifer grabbed Skye's hand and brought it to his lips in a mocking kiss. Then he looked piercingly at Skye. "Our blood sang true at the last, didn't it?" he said triumphantly.

For one final moment, Skye thought about how the thing had tricked him, made him hate again, and before he could shift his thoughts back to his mother or Jesus or anything other than the wish to take this monster into death with him, a great weight seemed to fall upon his chest, the air left his body, the darkening sky grew darker, and then he saw and heard nothing at all.

Chapter 47
 

"I
think he's dead," Tony whispered, and listened for a moment longer, but heard only the soft sound of the sand landing in the grave as Mulcifer kicked it.

He and Laika had been watching from the bluff overlooking the beach for the last half hour, from the time that Skye and his agents had arrived. They had agreed ahead of time that whatever happened, they would not interfere. Mulcifer might be able to turn them against each other as easily as he had been able to turn others. And Skye was not worth dying for.

Nor, it turned out, was David Allan Stanley. Tony tilted the camera upward to capture the small submarine as it carried its dead passengers outward bound. The only way they would ever find it once it sank to the bottom was with a bathysphere, and they'd probably have to search the whole North Sea.

Laika and Tony had heard every word, and gotten every piece of action on videotape, including Skye's death blow to Stanley, and the shooting of all the others except for Mulcifer and Weynnan, who was now piloting the sub to his death. Tony continued to videotape until Skye's body was covered, and Mulcifer walked nonchalantly toward the steps that would take him back to the castle. Then, with a shudder, they packed up their gear and returned to the cottage.

Joseph looked grim, and said he had something to tell them, but first Laika told him everything that had happened.

When she was finished, Joseph shook his head as though he could scarcely believe the turn of events. "So Stanley's been running Skye all the time, and Skye was running us in the hopes that some of these seemingly paranormal occurrences we investigated might lead to the Prisoner."

"And they sure did," Tony said. "In spades. So what's your news?"

"Not good. The nerve gas whose location Mulcifer made me tell? They've got it."

"Sweet Jesus," said Laika softly. "Have they released it yet?"

Joseph nodded. "That's the weirdest part. Two of these loyal Scottish Nationalists let fly with this stuff at the William Wallace monument in Stirling. The people on top died, but most of the gas was blown away by the wind."

"This is no coincidence," Laika said. "Mulcifer's to blame. He's too wild a card for Mackay to control. The bastard's toying with him now, playing his little games." She looked hard at Joseph. "Do you think he's got more gas?"

"I'm sure of it. There was a huge stockpile. He wouldn't have gone to the trouble of getting to it for one lousy tank. But the question is, how'd he get it? I haven't heard a thing about any attack on a storage facility."

"Maybe they're keeping it quiet so they won't alarm the public," Tony suggested.

"Negative. MI5 would've informed the Company if that had happened, but there's no mention on our classified sites. They got in and out without anybody even knowing it."

"But how would that be possible?" Laika asked.

Joseph smiled. "Hey, we've seen this guy work. I wouldn't put anything beyond him, would you?"

BOOK: Siege of Stone
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