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Authors: Chet Williamson

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When she had finished, three hours later, she told the deputy director that MI5's Martin Leech and Inspector and ex-MI5 operative Molly Fraser would be able to corroborate the events that they were involved with.

Then Laika was shown to a private dormitory room, little more than a security cell with more comfortable furniture and a private bathroom, in the basement of the complex, while the deputy director questioned Joseph and Tony separately. She had known that he would want to hear the story from all three of them individually, in order to catch them out in any lies. One would be enough to condemn them.

The deputy director had asked her innumerable small details, things one would not be likely to tell, but that one would remember. For example, he had wanted to know what the weather was like during different occurrences, and had made numerous notes of her answers.

She did not see Tony and Joseph again for two days. During that time she remained in her cozy prison, watching television and reading books she chose from a cart that was brought to her. They had also brought her luggage, so that she had toilet articles and a change of clothes. She had no idea of how long she might be there, and tried not to be impatient.

On the morning of the third day, she was brought up to the deputy director's office. He smiled at her briefly, and she hoped that was a good sign. Tony and Joseph arrived a minute later, and they looked at each other reassuringly. If they went down, it would be together.

"A number of people have seen your tape," said the deputy director, "and have heard a brief version of the rest of the story—the director and deputy director of Central Intelligence, the executive director, the President, and several cabinet members. And some decisions have been made. First of all, the events in the tape will not be made public, in the interests of national security, and you three will never speak of them again—or of
any
of the things you have experienced—to anyone without the proper clearance.

"We've contacted both MI5 and the Vatican, and their responses seem to indicate that the three of you have been telling the truth as you saw it. And from what I've heard, there have been no contradictions between any of your versions. I can tell you that we've known about the Vatican's 'prisoner' for some time, but have always maintained a strict hands-off policy, thinking it some sort of religious conflict, and we certainly didn't want to get entangled in anything like that . . . if we didn't have to. But now the Vatican is willing to look at the situation from a less spiritual and more scientific viewpoint."

The deputy director rubbed an eyebrow with the tips of two fingers. "I'm not a fanciful man. Some of the things that have happened . . ." He shook his head. "Let me just say that I'm glad that there seem to be explanations that we can at least think of as scientific. And since they are the work of science, even science we don't yet understand, as opposed to pseudo-science, we can't turn our backs on them and pretend they don't exist, and that what happened never happened. There seems to be the potential for grave danger here, not only for our citizens, but for humanity.

"No one knows where this Mulcifer has been taken, or if there are others like him who could threaten our well-being. His existence anywhere implies a serious threat to us all. And from what you've seen and learned, there is a possibility that there could be others like him.

"Therefore, the decision has been made to continue the work that the Templars were doing. Mass killings will have to be investigated to determine whether or not an outside influence, such as this Mulcifer, was at work. Supposedly paranormal events will have to be examined and either disproved or a connection might be found to . . . the beings that we may share this planet with.

"You three have already proved yourselves adept at this kind of operation. That you're still alive is proof of that. And your effectiveness is also strengthened by the fact that one of you," he said, looking at Joseph, "seems to have, shall we say, a psychic link with these creatures."

"I'm not sure if 'psychic' is the right word, sir," Joseph said, and Laika had to repress a smile. Joseph being called psychic had to be his worst nightmare.

"Call it what you want," said the deputy director shortly, as though he disliked being corrected. "You have an advantage the Templars didn't. It makes you more effective."

"And could make the situation more dangerous," said Laika.

"There's always a risk, Agent Harris. And the stakes are very high. We feel the risk needs to be taken."

"So do I," said Joseph. "We all do."

"Good. The Vatican is willing to let a secular agency carry on the work of the Templars, and we are that agency."

"What about the FBI?" Laika asked. "Even though we had no choice, we did . . . terminate one of their agents."

"No problem. The slate's already wiped clean, and their search for you has been canceled. You'll be a special unit on assignment from the President, to whom the CIA charter won't be applicable—pretty much what Mr. Skye said you would be, but he lied. Now you'll be able to work legally in this country as well as abroad. So. Do you accept?"

They looked at each other, then back at the deputy director. "We do, sir," Laika said.

He stood up and shook each one's hand. "Thank you for your good work. You're free to leave at any time, of course. You'll report back in two weeks. I suggest during that time you reacquaint yourselves with family and friends and get some rest. Recharge those psychic batteries, Agent Stein."

Joseph smiled weakly. "Yes sir. I'll do that."

"Just one thing, sir," Laika said. "I hope you'll reaffirm to MI5 the importance of covering up the mouth of that tunnel with lead."

"Rest easy, Agent Harris. It's already been done."

Chapter 58
 

A
fter several hours of debriefing, Laika Harris, Joseph Stein, and Tony Luciano stepped outside into the parking lot where a car was waiting for each of them. Free in the sunlight, Laika gave a huge sigh of relief. "We made it."

"Yes, we did," said Joseph. "And in two weeks we'll be back in harness."

"Do you mind?" Laika asked.

"No. I didn't enjoy every minute of these past few months, but I have to admit that the prospect of shooting down frauds and phonies is very appealing. It's as if the guys from
The Skeptical Inquirer
suddenly got government backing."

"Aren't you afraid we'll run up against another Mulcifer?" Tony asked him.

"I think Mulcifer, at least, is going to be well taken care of. I don't think we'll see him again. But as for others, I don't know. I'd tell you to just shoot me again if I get taken over by one of them, but we don't have the cup anymore."

"The Company?" Laika asked.

"I have to assume so. After we told our stories and were taken to our little cells, it was conspicuously missing from my luggage."

"Probably in better hands now," Tony said. "Maybe they'll take it apart and see what makes it tick. How about that—think we'd get the credit for the elixir of life?"

"You'll never see it," Joseph said. "HMOs have got too strong a lobby."

"I guess this is goodbye for a while," said Laika, unlocking her car. She turned back to the two and embraced them one by one.

"Aw, okay, group hug," said Tony, embracing both Joseph and Laika again. "I just hope they're not watching us from the windows."

"You know they are," said Laika, breaking the embrace. "They'll like it. Strong bonding."

They could have said more, but they didn't have to. They knew how they felt about each other. They knew each other's loyalty and love. It would be there when they met again, and it would keep them strong.

As Laika drove away from Langley, she glanced into the trees, almost expecting to see dark figures moving furtively against the browns and golds of autumn leaves. It was her favorite season, and she was glad she hadn't missed it here. She and her mother could take some long drives and walks together. She needed to clear her head, get rid of a lot of ugly pictures.

And she needed to stop hoping that the deputy director had been telling the truth, and that the black, open mouth of that damned tunnel that she couldn't stop thinking about was really sealed tight, and that pile of bones, and the things that had put them there, were down in the darkness and would stay there.

 

W
hen Laika Harris was driving toward Maryland to visit her mother at 4:30 P.M., it was dark in Scotland. If anyone had seen the figure running through the night, they might have thought him a short and stocky man, barely five feet high, with a barrel chest on which no hair grew. He was naked, and though he looked only thirty years old, he was, in fact, much, much older.

He had left his cloth behind, the same cloth that had sustained him for all those years. He would not need it now. When the sun came up in the morning, its light would supply his needs.

He was free, free at last. The others had chosen to remain below, and now they were trapped once more. One day, perhaps, they would join him again.

But for now, he was the only one of them whose spirit had not been crushed by the constant darkness and the surrounding and all-encompassing rock. He was the only one with the courage to slip through into a world far more vast than the one in which he had lately dwelt, but nothing when compared to the worlds and suns and moons through which he had roamed so long ago, roamed and fed his soul that had been starving too long.

There was no thirst in his mouth, nor hunger in his stomach, but both thirst and hunger were in his soul. He had no idea of what this world had to offer him, but he would soon learn.

He would soon teach.

Author's Note
 

G
airloch and the peninsula named after it are used to fictional purposes in this novel. There is no Castle Dirk, nor any specific model of it, and certain liberties have been taken with the actual physical properties of the peninsula.

The Mackay clan has also been used fictionally, and the author offers his deepest apologies should any member of this proud and splendid clan (of which the Williamson family is a sept) feel that I have sullied its name in any way. Such was certainly not my intent.

My apologies and thanks are also due to Clan Macleod for the borrowing of their justly famous Fairy Flag legend.

I would also like to thank Diana Gill, Stephen S. Power, and Jimmy Vines for their valuable assistance during the writing of this book.

Readers wishing to further investigate the reality of the paranormal will find much of worth in the following books:
The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal
, edited by Gordon Stein, Ph. D.;
The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher
by Martin Gardner;
An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural
by James Randi;
Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time
by Michael Shermer;
The Demon-Haunted World
by Carl Sagan; and the publications of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) at
http://www.csicop.org
.

BOOK: Siege of Stone
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