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Authors: Chet Williamson

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BOOK: Siege of Stone
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A
s they came down the A90, Gordon MacGregor had tried several times to wreck the car by steering it directly into an oncoming truck, but he could not make himself whip the wheel to the right. At least they had gotten out of the little eatery near Killiecrankie without anyone getting killed, although there had been a bonnie brawl under way by the time they left, no small thanks to the bastard by his side.

Edinburgh's city center was packed with tourists and slow-moving vehicles making their way along the narrow streets. At Mulcifer's orders, MacGregor parked the van on St. Giles Street, and they covered the two canisters with blankets and then removed them from the van. Mulcifer himself carried one of the rifles, also wrapped in a blanket.

They crossed brick-paved High Street, and then went across an open space and entered St. Giles' Cathedral through the west front entrance. A man in his sixties, dressed in a dark suit and tie, came up to them and looked curiously at their burdens. "May I help you gentlemen?" he asked in an uncertain voice.

"You may," said Mulcifer smoothly. "We've come to deliver the Last Judgment to the city of Edinburgh, and require your assistance in reaching your lovely steeple."

"I beg your pardon?"

Mulcifer shook his head. "What a pity. So near, and I learn that you and I share no blood. I hate to resort to this, but I have a rifle under this blanket, and should you not take us immediately to the top of the steeple without any alarm or fuss, I shall shoot not only you, but everyone else in this lovely building before I'm forced to reload. Shall we?"

The man swallowed hard, but turned and started walking. He led them on a labyrinthine route up stairs and down dimly lit hallways, meeting no one on the way, until at last they came out into the open air atop the medieval central tower of the cathedral. Above them, the multi-pinnacled crown steeple rose majestically. Below were the teeming streets of Edinburgh.

"I very much appreciate your guidance," said Mulcifer, then swung the rifle butt so that it caught the old man on the temple. He went down without a moan.

"Well, my Scottish comrades, let's not waste another moment." Mulcifer yanked the blankets from the canisters. He clapped MacGregor and Michael Brownlee on their shoulders. "Point the nozzle of this tank outward, gentlemen. . . that's the way. Here's your screwdriver to loosen the valves. Now, you two. . ." He smiled at Steven Robertson and Bruce Calder. "Bring that one over here on the other side . . . follow me. A lovely fall day, isn't it? Such a nice, gentle breeze. . ."

While Mulcifer positioned Robertson and Calder on the other side of the tower, MacGregor looked westward over the city past the spire of the Tolbooth Church to where Edinburgh Castle sat on its bed of volcanic rock. It was a beautiful old city. Too damned bad that everyone in it was going to die.

"All right!" Mulcifer called across the tower. "Open the valves!"

MacGregor twisted the valve open, expecting only a painful death. The gas hissed out, and MacGregor was surprised that he was unable to see it. Something so deadly, he thought, should be green and thick and viscous, but this looked like only air.

The wind blew toward him, and he hitched in a breath, expecting the agony to begin. But nothing happened.

Then Mulcifer was beside him, his face concerned. "Why aren't you dead?" he said wonderingly, then put his hand in front of the nozzle from which the gas was still streaming. "What
is
this
shit
?" he roared, and then turned the canister about and fitted his mouth over the end, inhaling deeply. He removed his lips, exhaled, and then said, "This is not VX . . ."

He sounded exactly like one of the chipmunks in that Christmas record MacGregor had had when he was a kid.

MacGregor couldn't help it. He laughed. It started low, then began to increase until he was howling with laughter, tears rolling down his cheeks. Then Brownlee was laughing, too, and in another moment Robertson and Calder had come over to see what had happened.

"Damn you, be quiet!" Mulcifer said, but the helium was still affecting his vocal cords so that the words sounded several octaves higher than normal.

Calder gave a burst of surprised laughter, and Robertson followed suit, and now all four of them were laughing. If they died in the next minute, it was worth it to hear this thing who had controlled them and who they feared suddenly made to sound absurd and impotent.

Mulcifer, however, was anything but. Gordon MacGregor did not hear his next words with his ears, but inside his head:

You want to laugh?—Laugh all the way down . . .

Still laughing, he climbed over the balustrade, jumped from the tower, and hit the roof of the nave below. He did not die for several more minutes, and continued to laugh as best he could, knowing that although the jump had been due to Mulcifer, the laughter was his own. He hoped the bastard could hear it.

 

M
ulcifer stared down at the four men thirty feet below. Two were unmoving, but the others were twitching, and one, he thought, was still laughing. Had they betrayed him? Had they switched canisters somehow? Did Mackay have more control over his men than Mulcifer had thought?

Whatever had happened, at least two more canisters of VX were back at the castle. Mulcifer retraced his steps down to street level, and walked calmly through the west end of the cathedral through which he had entered. A pocket of men were standing about looking concerned, glancing upward at the vaulted ceiling of the nave, as though they had heard the impact of the men falling onto its roof.

Mulcifer wasn't concerned. He stepped out onto the street and walked back to the van, got in, and drove north, toward Castle Dirk. He was going to have to have a very serious talk with Colin Mackay.

Chapter 50
 

W
hen Mulcifer arrived back at the castle at eight thirty in the evening, the sky was still light enough to see. He drove through the inner gatehouse and was surprised to find that there were no vehicles in the inner ward. He was even more surprised to find, when he got out of the van, Colin Mackay standing up on the walkway around the inner curtain, his arms crossed, glaring down at Mulcifer in hatred and scorn.

"Get a bit of a surprise, did ye?" Mackay asked. "Everything not go quite as planned, then?"

"Where are the men who were supposed to be guarding you?" Mulcifer asked, glancing about but seeing no signs of anyone else. The only disturbing thing, besides the presence of a free Mackay, was an unpleasant smell that seemed familiar, but that Mulcifer couldn't identify. "Where are they?"

"I just had to work at it a little, but I soon brought them around," Mackay said. "They're gone. My organization is dissolved, small thanks to you. If you want to use pawns in your twisted little game, you'll have to find them somewhere else from now on."

"What do you mean, you 'brought them around'?"

"I mean I overcame your orders to them, you poncy shite. I got you out of their heads and I sent them away where you can't touch them again."

"That's . . . not possible."

"You don't sound too sure of yourself,
Mulcifer
." Mackay sneered the name. "What's the matter? Are you scared, now that you don't have anybody around you can turn into your wee zombies? You can't make me smash my head against a wall or chew my veins open, can you? No, it's just man to man now, isn't it? Or man to monster . . . I can never recall your being anything near to a man. You were locked up like a madman for centuries, because that's exactly what you are—a mad
thing
, not fit to be among human beings, and my mistake was to think that you might actually have some emotions, like loyalty and trustworthiness." He made a disgusted sound in his throat.

"Well," Mackay went on, "it's just the two of us now. And I'm going to do to you what should have been done when your ugly head first entered the light of day. I'm going to do what my father and the other Templars did. I'm going to beat your power down and imprison it. And this time it's going to be forever. But first . . ." He held up a finger as if in warning. ". . . I'm going to kick your sick, twisted arse halfway into your guts."

Mulcifer felt as close to rage as he ever had. First the disappointment with the canisters, then his own tools laughing at him, and now this young fool—young in comparison to Mulcifer, at any rate—and his misconception that longevity made him not only Mulcifer's equal, but his superior.

"You are badly mistaken," he told the yapping puppy, as he walked purposefully toward the stairs to the walkway above. "Simply because you've felt the power of the cloth of sustenance hardly makes you equal to one who it is intended to sustain. You are immortal, Colin Mackay, but not invulnerable. You can live on only as long as you do not come to a violent end. But a violent end is precisely what I intend for you."

He was only a few feet away from Mackay now, and he stopped and glared at him. "You mock me for not being a man, but I revel in it. My strength is greater than any man's, and if you doubt it, I'll be happy to give you a demonstration."

He lunged at him, but Mackay sidestepped and hit Mulcifer in the midsection, three hard, quick blows that would have punched the air out of any man.

But Mulcifer was not a man, and he pushed Mackay back with his left arm. That arm only traveled a few inches, but the strength of it threw Mackay several feet, and his back hit the hard stones of the inner curtain wall with so much force that he cried out in pain and fell.

"First lesson," said Mulcifer, brushing the shirt over his stomach, symbolically whisking away Mackay's powerful blows as if they had been dust. "You'll definitely need more than fists."

He strode toward Mackay with the intention of grasping his neck with one hand and his balls with the others, then squeezing to create both pain and death simultaneously. He would look deeply into Mackay's eyes as he died, and come as close as he could to feeling the man's death.

 

C
olin Mackay shook his head to clear it, and staggered to his feet. Mulcifer was almost upon him. He stumbled backward, and was only inches from the edge when he regained his balance. Mulcifer reached out for him, but Mackay spun away and ran along the narrow wooden walkway.

He glanced back when he reached the northwest tower, and saw that Mulcifer was following him, walking briskly rather than running, as if telling Mackay to go ahead and run, that he would catch him easily enough. Mackay passed the stairway down, but did not take it. That was not his route. He had one direction in which to go, one destiny only, and it was now twenty yards away.

He ran the length of the northern wall, slowing enough for Mulcifer to draw closer, until only a few yards separated them. The timing and the distance would have to be just right. Nothing must go wrong. He had failed so terribly before, but he could not fail now.

Just past the northeast tower, he glanced behind him to see Mulcifer striding across the boards that passed the stairway down. Mackay stopped, grasped a steel lever that jutted up from between the wooden planks, and jerked it toward him. His action took less than a second, too little time for Mulcifer to even wonder about it.

The wooden floor of the walkway opened under Mulcifer like the trap of a gallows. For an instant he hung there as if suspended, then shot downward.

But the creature's thoughts and actions were faster than gravity, and Mackay saw it reach out and grasp the edge of the opening with its fingertips. In another second it had drawn its upper body over the edge and was climbing back onto the walkway.

"No," said Mackay in a low, firm voice, and then louder, ''
No!
''

He closed the gap between them just as Mulcifer was straightening up and plowed right into him, grabbing him and pushing him backward so that both of them plunged through the opening, and down toward the now open well below.

As Colin Mackay's body fell with that of Mulcifer's, his final thought was that he had won. Even though he was a dead man now, he had won.

And then his body, still tightly clutching Mulcifer's, struck the molten lead with which the well had been filled. There was a moment of excruciating agony, and then Colin Mackay knew no more.

Chapter 51
 

"H
e did it," Tony whispered, looking at one of five monitors inside the control truck. "Dear God, he did it."

Inside the truck, parked on the MacLunie land over the ridge from the castle, everyone's eyes were fixed on the monitor. On its screen was a dim image of two bodies upon what looked like a surface of gray mud. One of the bodies, Colin Mackay's, spasmed, then constricted like a bum victim's, slowly curling up and sinking into the molten lead.

BOOK: Siege of Stone
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