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Authors: Chet Williamson

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BOOK: Siege of Stone
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"Galena," Tony said, coming up to them. Then he shrugged. "I got a mineralogy merit badge when I was a Boy Scout."

"Galena, as in lead ore?" asked Joseph.

"Right. I've been seeing veins of it ever since we came into the tunnel. But this is the mother lode." Tony looked across the cavern at the black mouths of other tunnels leading away. "I wonder where those go."

"I'd rather not know," Laika said. "Frankly, I'd be much happier if I hadn't even known about
this
place."

Leech and Molly, both of whom looked slightly nervous, came up to the three operatives. "Any suggestions as to what
this
might be?" Leech asked.

"We've been discussing it," said Laika, "but we have no idea." It was a tactful lie, Joseph thought. He had all too clear an idea of what this lead-lined cavern had been, and why the bones had been there. "I would make one suggestion, however," Laika went on. "And that is that after we leave, you should have that tunnel mouth sealed up permanently. And I'd suggest that you use some alloy of lead."

"
I'd
suggest," said Joseph, "that you do better than that. What kind of lead did you use in the well on Mulcifer?"

Leech turned to one of the men from MI5. "Pig lead," the man answered.

"I don't know much about it," Joseph said. "Is there any purer lead?"

The man nodded. "Pig lead is 99.73 percent lead content. Fully refined lead can have up to 99.99 percent content."

"I suggest you spend the extra bucks and go for the purer stuff," said Joseph. "That .26 percent of crap may be why Mulcifer was able to break through it."

"I'll suggest it," Leech said. "We'll probably want to take some photographs in here first, however."

Joseph looked at the black mouths of the other tunnels, then turned back to Leech. "Use fast film," he said.

As they entered the mouth of the tunnel through which they had come, Joseph held back, shining his light on the other tunnel openings, thinking that in the deeper darkness, he might actually see something, something that might be hesitant to show itself in the bright lantern light. He shone the lights on the tunnel mouths one by one, and for a moment he thought he saw what might have been the gleam of eyes, but then realized that it was only the metallic luster of the galena that saturated the rock.

Joseph turned, shining his flashlight on the ground in front of him, and walked quickly to catch up to the fading lights of the rest of the party. He was twenty feet up the tunnel when he heard a sound behind him, a stealthy scuttling, like a scraping of a hard-shod foot, or a rough hoof, upon the rock. He whirled about, pointing the flashlight back down the tunnel like a gun, and thought he saw something move, dart quickly out of the light's beam.

He stood for a moment, listening, and then he grew very frightened, and thought that he would give anything for a glimpse of daylight, and dreaded the climb back to the surface through the damp and shiny tunnel. He walked backward, keeping the light focused on where he had been. Then, when he heard the footsteps and occasional voices of the others ahead, he turned and ran, ran until he was with them again.

He talked to Laika the rest of the way up, knowing that if he did not respond, she would at least turn around to see what had become of him, and might be able to save him, should something try and take him from behind, and add his bones to the pile that now lay once more in its eternal darkness.

Chapter 56
 

M
artin Leech had put an armed guard at the mouth of the tunnel and had Molly Fraser and an MI5 agent accompany the three operatives back to their cottage. They would pack and sleep there overnight, and at five o'clock the next morning they would be driven to Glasgow and put on an eleven thirty British Air flight to Dulles Airport.

At Laika Harris's request, Leech had also contacted the CIA, and made arrangements for a Company limousine to pick up the three agents and take them directly to Langley. With Skye dead, and with MI5 having partial knowledge of their mission and its consequences, it was high time to come in from the cold, and see how much colder the reception they got would be.

Two MI5 agents arrived after dark to relieve the first. They remained in the kitchen of the cottage, brewing tea and talking softly through the night. Molly sat with the three ops in the drawing room, and they talked for a long time before Molly finally left at eleven.

Joseph walked her out to her car, making sure that the MI5 agents knew he would be right back. "Thank you," he said, as they stood in the darkness together. "This never could have been resolved if it hadn't been for your believing us and trusting us. Despite everything."

"My pleasure. It certainly made my usual rounds seem terribly dull. Do you think we'll have any more visits from ghosts here on the peninsula?"

"No. The ghosts and the aliens and everything else are gone."

"You know a whole lot more than you're letting on, don't you? I saw your face after Mulcifer disappeared. You looked like a patzer who just realized how to force checkmate in two moves."

"All you need to know—and MI5 too, for that matter—is that there will be no more ghosts, the terrorist threat is ended, and I don't think we'll ever see the . . . person responsible for it again."

She smiled. "Maybe that's all I really
want
to know. There are a few things I wish I could forget, like that cavern." She hissed, and gave a small shudder.

"Just make sure they seal it up," Joseph said.

"I'll do what I can." She leaned toward him and kissed him, briefly and gently, on the lips. "It was good to see you again."

"Same here. I wish we had had time to catch up on things, talk a bit about more than just . . . our work, strange as it's been."

"Me too. I think about you often, Joseph. We did have some lovely times together back in London, when people weren't trying to kill us, of course. Come visit Scotland again, not on business, but for pleasure, aye? I'll make ye a haggis 'twill melt in yer mouth, laddie."

"You've never made a haggis in your life," he said, laughing.

She laughed in return. "It's true, I haven't." Then they stopped laughing, and she kissed him again, holding it long enough for him to put his arms around her and hers around him.

"Goodbye, Joseph," she said, turning toward her car. "God be with you, whether you want Him or not."

 

T
hey sat three across on the flight home, taking turns sitting in the dreaded middle seat. They slept, but mostly they talked, trying to explain the cavern and the pile of bones in a way that would let them categorize and departmentalize it so that they could mercifully forget it.

But as they quickly learned, there was no light and breezy explanation for a cave full of bones both ancient and modern, and tunnels carved through solid rock from below. They considered the possibility that it was the place of imprisonment from which Mulcifer had come, a leaden tomb inside the earth where his cloth would sustain him. But had he been there for eons, long enough to cut his way upward one small sliver of stone at a time? If so, he must have had the patience of rain wearing down mountains.

"The strong possibility," Joseph said, "and one that I don't like to think about, is that he wasn't alone. The two separate cloths suggest that. And could one being, even Mulcifer, kill all those creatures whose bones were there?"

"He couldn't have," Laika said. "Remember, he'd been imprisoned by the church for over a millennium, and a lot of those bones were far less than a thousand years old." Laika looked out the window at the clouds below. "There's something else about those bones that bothered me. My old anthropology courses are coming back to haunt me. When you find bones like that, which are usually remnants of animal attack, or even bestial humans, there are always signs of eating, knife marks where the flesh has been cut or scraped off the bone, or teeth marks where it's been chewed off. There were no marks like that on those bones. Which leads me to believe that neither the men nor the animals were killed for food."

"For what, then?" Tony asked. Laika turned a meaningful look on him, and he grimaced. "For the joy of it," he said. "Mulcifer's M.O. all the way."

"Mulcifer's," Joseph agreed, "and those
like
Mulcifer. I think he was the golden boy. I think he was the only one smart enough or lucky enough to somehow get out."

"And the rest," said Laika, "if there really
are
more, stayed down there. And are they down there still?" She sighed in the silence that was filled only by the low whine of the jet engines. "What were they to begin with, and what could they have become?"

"All the terrible things that dwell beneath the earth," said

Joseph. "All the awful things we've ever imagined."

"Like the Morlocks," Tony said. "In
The Time Machine
."

"Lovecraft's alien monstrosities," Joseph went on. "And Richard Shaver's deros."

"Who were they?" asked Laika.

"Shaver was a pulp writer in the forties. He wrote these stories that he claimed were true, about an evil race of beings that lived in caverns in the earth and caused terrible events in the world above by psychic means. It was absolutely crazy, but a lot of people bought into it."

"After what we know," Tony said, "I'd be pretty susceptible to that story myself."

"I just hope they seal that opening up, and fast," said Laika, again looking out the window at the gloriously blue sky. "I don't like the idea of deros or Morlocks or whatever
real
things might be under our feet. I think I'd just like to stay up here, thank you, high above the ground."

Tony frowned. "And high above all the questions that we're going to have to answer at Langley when we land."

Chapter 57
 

T
he limousine took them directly to Langley, where they were led into the office of the Deputy Director for Intelligence, the man to whom Skye had reported. Before entering the office, they were asked to surrender their arms, but they had carried none on the plane, as the agents who searched them discovered.

Inside the director's office, they were seated in three chairs facing the director, who sat behind his desk. Two agents, who Laika Harris was certain were armed, stood behind them. Laika had on her lap the reports she had prepared on the plane.

"Agent Harris, Agent Luciano, Agent Stein," the director said. "You seem to have caused some problems. According to your dossiers, you were to have been working in Asia and the Middle East. However, intercepted FBI reports as well as other intelligence have placed you in the United States. And now we hear from MI5 that they are returning you home after your participation in an operation in Scotland." The director leaned back in his chair and frowned. "Since Mr. Skye cannot be found to give us an explanation, perhaps you'd care to try."

"I would, sir," said Laika. "I want to tell you the full story, from beginning to end. But first I'd like you to watch this." She took a videotape from her folder and set it on the desk. "It will explain why you haven't heard from Mr. Skye. It will also explain another disappearance, that of David Allan Stanley, who Mr. Skye was secretly working for—as were we—but without our knowledge, under false directives from Mr. Skye. I think the tape will also help lend some verisimilitude to some of the more . . . extraordinary aspects of my report."

The deputy director nodded toward the two agents, who accompanied Laika, Tony, and Joseph into a waiting area. A half hour later Laika alone was taken back into the office. She could tell that what the deputy director had seen had affected him. He looked puzzled and angry, as though betrayed.

"Tell your story, Agent Harris," he said.

After the other two agents had left the room, Laika told the deputy director everything, from the very beginning. It was what she had told Molly Fraser, but she added all the truths that she had previously excised. There was not an element that she left out of the report. Everything was there. The deputy director asked her questions throughout, and she tried to answer them. But there were some that she could not.

She did not know, for example, why the tunnel from the cavern filled with bones led into the cellar of the Templars' castle. She did not know how a piece of the cloth had found its way into the wooden cup they had taken from Sir Andrew Mackay's room, or how another piece had become the Fairy Flag, or how a nearly complete cloth had come to be buried near Castle Dirk. Nor did she know, from a more practical political viewpoint, if Colin Mackay's organization was linked to any other Scottish nationalists, or to the IRA.

BOOK: Siege of Stone
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