Read Siege of Stone Online

Authors: Chet Williamson

Tags: #Science Fiction

Siege of Stone (41 page)

BOOK: Siege of Stone
12.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

The other body, however, continued to move. It thrashed about as though trying to swim in the thick, tarry mess. Joseph was amazed that Mulcifer could still live in the 630 degree heat of the lead. If Leech, who had been constantly dubious to this point, wasn't convinced that Mulcifer was something other than human, here was the proof.

"Go
under
, you bastard," Joseph heard someone whisper, and realized it was he. None of them knew what would happen if Mulcifer was not beneath the surface of the lead when it hardened.

"628.5," said an army engineer, reading from an instrument panel. It was cooling fast, down a degree and a half in less than 30 seconds.

They had kept the lead only eight and a half degrees above its melting point of 621.5 degrees Fahrenheit, to ensure that it would not take long to cool and harden once Mulcifer had fallen in. The engineers had set up an electric eye to turn off the heating unit that was part of the refractory liner they had constructed for the ten-foot-deep well. Even though the fire-brick would retain its heat for hours afterward, the lead would harden quickly.

But it appeared as though it might be
too
quick. Now the temperature reading was 626 degrees, and Mulcifer was still thrashing about. Leech's eyes were wide as he watched, and Joseph heard Laika say, "Go
down
, damn you, go down . . ." Joseph felt like Tony Perkins watching the car go into the swamp in
Psycho
.

"625," the engineer read. Mulcifer's movements were slowing now. His arms looked like they were treading water. His head bobbed, then went under nearly all the way, but he pushed down his arms, and his face, coated with lead, reappeared.

"624." Mulcifer's arms spread out upon the lead as though he were floating on his back. His face was turned upward, toward the trapdoor through which he had fallen, but his eyes were closed.

Then, like a man vanishing in quicksand, he went under, as quickly and completely as if the retributive hand of Colin Mackay had drawn him down, to dwell with him forever in a tomb of lead.

"Thank God," Martin Leech said softly, and Joseph could hear his voice shake. "Thank God."

"Thank Colin Mackay," Joseph said. "It wasn't supposed to happen this way. He sacrificed himself to get Mulcifer into the well."

Leech cleared his throat. "It was his responsibility," he said. "He was the one who used him. All those deaths are on his head, too."

"
Were
on his head," said Molly. "He's paid the price."

"Not enough of one," Leech said, and Joseph thought that in his eyes he could see the dead children of London.

"Would you have him 'nine years a-killing,' like Othello?" Laika asked. "Let him go. He's done more than any of us could." She looked at the panel. "What's the temperature?"

"620," the engineer said.

"How long before it's completely hard?"

"I'd say until dawn."

"I think we should have someone keep an eye on this monitor through the night," Laika said. "I don't want any surprises in the morning."

"And then we'll airlift the whole plug of lead out," said Tony, "and drop it in the middle of the North Sea."

"'Deeper than did ever plummet sound,'" quoted Laika.

"
The Tempest
," Joseph said. "You're feeling severely Shakespearean this evening."

"There's an element of tragedy to all this," she replied. "We've won, but there have been too many losses." Laika turned to Leech. "No one goes in there until morning, when we all go, right?"

Leech nodded. "Absolutely. I'm not taking any chances with . . . with whatever that thing was."

"Good," said Laika. "I think we could all use some sleep. We'll head back to the cottage and be back at the castle before dawn. Thank you, Mr. Leech. And thank you, Inspector—Molly, for your help and for believing us in the first place."

"It's hard to disbelieve what I saw with my own eyes," Molly replied.

Leech cleared his throat. "There's a lot here that needs to be ironed out, you know. You three aren't going to be able to just walk away from this. We're going to have to . . . straighten all this out with the CIA. There are a lot of unanswered questions."

"And we'll try and answer as many as possible."

"Nevertheless, you'll forgive me, Agent Harris," Leech went on, "if prudence dictates that I put a military guard on you and your fellow agents. I should hate to find the three of you gone, come the dawn."

Joseph saw Tony's back go up, but Laika calmed him with a look. She would have done the same thing in Leech's place. "A reasonable request," she said, and added, with a smile, "I'd be happy to have someone watch over us while we sleep."

Joseph thought amen to that. He was exhausted. They had spent the entire day preparing for Mulcifer's return, putting into play the plot that Laika had come up with to capture him again. The simpler the better, she had said, and it had worked, with a great deal of luck.

The old well had been the only trap large enough, and the inner curtain walkway passed directly over it. There would have been no time to prepare anything more elaborate. As it was, the engineers had barely finished lining the well with refractory brick, installing the heating equipment and sensors, preparing the trapdoor mechanism, and getting an electric eye rigged up that would trigger the heating elements to shut off, when the van had been sighted approaching Gairloch.

Naturally, they had to be able to see what was happening with their plan, so Joseph and Molly had set up the cameras and microphones that had allowed them to view what occurred from five different angles. When Laika and Tony had returned from Edinburgh, they had helped finish the installation.

But the success of the plot had been dependent upon one man, Colin Mackay. No one could be in the vicinity of the castle for fear that Mulcifer would sense their presence and turn them against Mackay. It had to be the two of them alone, and Mackay had to be able to enrage Mulcifer sufficiently so that the creature would follow him to the one spot where the trap could be sprung.

Mackay had agreed, and had done what was asked of him. And more. "He had a lot of guts," said Joseph, as they drove back to the cottage. "Bad way to die."

"It was probably fast," Tony said. "There are worse ways. And besides, he didn't have to go through a trial. It would be a helluva thing to try and explain."

"MI5 wouldn't have let him go to trial," said Laika. "I think he would have died while trying to escape. There was too much he could tell that they didn't want anyone to know."

"Is that what you told him when you were talking him into it?" Joseph asked.

Laika glanced out the window. "Let's just say I was at my most persuasive. And my most honest."

 

B
efore she went home to go to bed, Molly Fraser stopped by the small jail in which Rob Lindsay and James Menzies, the only survivors of Colin Mackay's group, were imprisoned. The two men were sitting in the same cell, and stood up when they saw her.

"What's happened?" Lindsay said. "How's Colin?"

"Colin Mackay is dead," said Molly. "So is Mulcifer. I don't know what's going to happen to you two. That's up to others. I just wanted you to know that he died bravely."

Lindsay sat down heavily on his cot and buried his head in his hands. Menzies came closer and grasped the bars that separated them. "But did he die for Scotland?" Menzies said, a flame in his eyes.

Molly looked at him, anger and pity warring within her. "He died for Scotland," she said. "And I think he died for the world." She started out the door, then turned back. "Tomorrow morning we're going to require your presence at the castle. There may be some questions that only you can answer, since you were staying there. I can't make any promises, but if you cooperate, it may be helpful to you. Will you go with no protests?"

Menzies nodded, and Lindsay looked up and whispered, "Yes." Molly saw his eyes were wet with tears. She had only spoken to Mackay for several minutes earlier that day, but she could understand how he might be a man worth following, and worth weeping for.

Molly went out into the cool night and looked up at the sky. It was clear, and the stars were sparkling overhead. Things were going as well as they could, she supposed. MI5 was in control, the terrorist threat was ended, and the even worse threat to the world was at least contained, if not destroyed. And on top of everything else, there had been no sightings of those strange apparitions for several days now. Maybe everything was going to be all right, after all.

Chapter 52
 

T
he next morning, the three operatives gathered outside Castle Dirk with Martin Leech, several other MI5 representatives, Molly Fraser, her two DIs, who were guarding Lindsay and Menzies, and a dozen armed soldiers from the group who had captured the castle the previous day. The soldiers who had taken shifts watching the lead-filled well all night on the monitor had reported no visual change, and the temperature of the lead now read forty-eight degrees, the temperature of the morning air.

Joseph remembered the two Scots, Rob Lindsay and James Menzies, from having seen them in the castle earlier with Mackay. They looked abandoned, like men who had lost a cause and a leader, and were left with nothing. Still, he tried not to feel too sorry for them. Terror had been their chosen tool, and people would have died at their hands even if Mulcifer had never crossed their paths. As it was, terror had turned around and bitten them in the ass.

The group went through the inner gatehouse and into the inner ward. Then they turned to the right and went toward the northeast tower, and down the narrow opening between the former stables and the blacksmith's shop where Tony had hidden earlier to the small open area that held the well. Several of the soldiers went up the tower stairs onto the platform above, and looked down through the open trapdoor.

The operatives, Molly, and the MI5 people went to the edge of the well, but Lindsay and Menzies held back, and the policemen stayed with them. What lay over the top of the well was a dark gray, relatively smooth surface of lead, but Joseph knew full well that that surface went down ten feet. Mulcifer, along with the corpse of Colin Mackay, was now encased in a leaden cylinder ten feet in diameter and another ten deep.

"We'll have to remove the walkway above," Leech said, eyeing the situation. "Then we should be able to attach a cable and pull the thing right up with a helicopter—the bricks will adhere to the lead."

"You'd better have a strong cable," Tony said. "That plug's got a lot of tonnage."

"All the better to sink it deeper," Joseph said, uncomfortable at the close proximity to Mulcifer, even if he was sealed behind lead once again. To reassure himself of his safety, Joseph reached out a hand and rubbed it over the flat surface. It was cool and unyielding, a fitting, permanent prison for a cold and hard creature.

"What's that?" he heard someone ask, and looked next to him to see Laika staring fixedly at the center of the well. He turned and saw a slight rise that he had not noticed before, a small, fist-shaped lump on the leaden surface, like a nodule signaling the growth of a cancer.

Then, as they all watched, the metal over the lump started to crack.

Something was pushing up from beneath, and now pieces of lead started to separate from the whole and slide down the incline that had been made. Suddenly, an arm shot out of the lead, fist clenched.

Mulcifer's arm.

It seemed to Joseph as though he were watching in a dream, or as if this was some phantasmal movie sequence, like the end of
Carrie
, or
Tales from the Crypt
, or a dozen Italian zombie films, where the rotting hand rises forth from the grave for vengeance. But
this
hand, Joseph saw, as the fist unclenched and the fingers spread wide, was not rotten, but whole. Still, Joseph would have bet that it, too, had vengeance in mind.

A second fist shattered the lead above it, and Joseph realized that all along Mulcifer must have been only an inch or so beneath the surface. "Oh shit, what now?" he whispered to himself as the fists crashed down upon the lead with superhuman strength, cracking the metal over Mulcifer's chest and head so that, slowly and laboriously, he was able to sit up.

Several of the soldiers raised their rifles, but Laika called to them to hold their fire, and Leech wisely reaffirmed the order. Bullets would do no good.

Mulcifer's chest was bare, for the heat of the lead had dissolved his clothing, and the lower part of his body was still encased in lead. It looked absurdly as though he were sitting in a bathtub. But the look of rage on his face as he glanced at the onlookers belied the image of a man bathing.

BOOK: Siege of Stone
12.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Heart of the Matter by Marta Perry
The Devil at Archangel by Sara Craven
Pure Juliet by Stella Gibbons
Jowendrhan by Poppet
Package Deal by Vale, Kate
Escape for the Summer by Ruth Saberton
Possessing Jessie by Nancy Springer
Flight by Victoria Glendinning