off to one side of the square a lizard basked on a stone trying to absorb
as much warmth from the sun as possible before the shadow that was drawing
inexorably closer eventually cut off the source of heat like closing an
oven door. The ferocity of the sun heated the stone to the temperature
of a griddle and the lizard lifted one foot at a time, in careful rotation,
to prevent its feet from frying.
through the portals, the crowds crammed into Freedom Square. Belying the
liberty suggested in the title of this open space, it only served to compact
and funnel the mass along Republic Street.
paving of the square transmitted the vibrations of every footstep up through
the stone and into whichever three of the lizard’s feet were resting
on it at the time. Occasionally a slow, steady tread would make its way
past the lizard. As long as the footsteps continued it was safe. The lizard
had become adept at assessing a person’s intentions by their footfalls.
At the earliest sound of the dreaded quick, light footsteps the lizard
would dart away in fear. Once before it had suffered the penalty of letting
those footsteps get too near. It had taken a whole year to re-grow the
new tail that curled behind it, a slightly lighter sandy colour than the
rest of its body.
tongue darted in and out repeatedly, seeking moisture from the air. The
moisture these days seemed rancid and had unnatural fragrances that made
the lizard suddenly twitch its head in disgust. It was thinking of moving
to a new territory.
the capital city of Malta, began to succumb to the annual trend at the
start of the summer holiday season. The busloads of people increased by
the hour and the tourists redoubled their annual siege. The narrow streets
afforded some welcome respite for the multitude of people as the intense
heat relentlessly boiled the life juices from their bodies - the moisture
carried off in the arid air.
young girl caught sight of a movement through the corner of her eye. It
was a lizard basking in the sun and she squeezed her father’s hand
in delight and to attract his attention. That strange telepathy that sometimes
exists communicated the glee to her brother who was not as timid. The
quick, light footsteps alerted the lizard and it darted away, forcing
itself into an impossibly small hole beneath the steps of the old Opera
behind its once elegant facade is the bomb-damaged interior. The fractured
sandstone columns still supporting the grand gallery echoed the splendid
majesty of a bygone age. A time when ladies were resplendent in long dresses
fashioned from expensive chiffon. A time when gentlemen would wear a cape
and carry a cane, their status determined by the quality of cut employed
in the tailoring of their eveningwear - A time before Hitler’s bombs
destroyed this magnificent building.
boy, dashing on ahead as boys always do, distracted his mother from her
window-shopping. The girl, happy to stay by her father, continued to hold
his hand. The family drifted along in the crowd, treading the hand quarried
paving slabs placed there by an ancient order of knights and polished
smooth by the countless thousands of feet who had trodden the same path
over the centuries.
up high then crouching to peer between the closely-knit bodies, trying
to keep him in sight, she fought a losing battle. The voices of doubt
whispered dreadful things into her mind.
frantically to her husband she pointed to where she thought the boy was.
Unsure of potential dangers and fighting down the panic that made her
want to fling the people aside in frenzy she struggled to control her
breathing that sobbed in her throat.
on the neck of her blouse, as if to release the restriction of air, she
wanted to shout his name but resisted in order to avoid portraying the
image she had in her mind of an hysterical mother making a foolish spectacle
of herself. Instead, she willed her son to slow down.
little girl hurried behind her father, struggling to keep up as he forced
a way through the crowd. Her brother had disappeared from sight!
from the bottleneck of Republic Street into Palace Square they found themselves
confronted with the deceivingly plain exterior of the Grand Master’s
Palace. Taking up the whole of one side of the quadrangle the flaking,
yellow-ochre, walls fading to a dun colour at the base gave the appearance
of neglect. A multitude of green shuttered windows battened against the
outside world became monotonous. Covered verandas, supported on elaborately
carved stone brackets turned the corners at each end of the building and
the only relief to the monotony is two columned doorways providing tantalising
glimpses of lush foliage, in a myriad of greens, set out in the unrestrained
opulence of the shadowed inner courtyards.
girl squeezed her father’s hand even tighter and the tremor in her
voice betrayed her fear. ‘Daddy, I don’t like it!’
okay,’ he replied, standing on his tiptoes he could see his wife
waving over the heads of the people. ‘Your Mum’s found him,
he’s safe.’ And then he felt it too!
the concealed basement eight extremely powerful and influential men were
planning what could be done to ensure their scheme would come to fruition.
too late for second thoughts, Argyle. The plan has already been put into
action. I would like to know what we can expect to find out from our efforts
as I’m sure the rest of us would.’ Nomoone gestured for George
Braithwaite, the Surgeon Major, to give his report.
there is information in the house, but we don’t know how significant
it is. He was tougher than we thought but he did talk a little before
Harrison was indignant. ‘It was because of your blundering, Braithwaite,
that he died. You overdosed him with the sulphonamide,’ he accused.
a great deal of restraint, George Braithwaite addressed Nomoone. ‘Senior
Grand Deacon, I will not be cross-examined by anyone! However, it was
necessary to give so much of the drug; he wouldn’t have talked at
all if we hadn’t. Besides, I wasn’t aware that he should have
been kept alive.’ He turned to Paul Harrison ‘You’re
not going soft on us are you?’ he sneered.
shouted Nomoone, continue with your report.’
Grand Inquisitor was there, as you know, and he approved the dosage. It
was while he was actually being interrogated that he died. You know the
Grand Inquisitor has some rather forceful methods of questioning.’
the far end of the chamber the drapes that hung down either side of the
Grand Master’s throne parted and Egon Johannes leant forward with
his eyebrows raised in question.
anticipated the question, as was his role, and addressed George Braithwaite,
‘Do you have a concern with the way the Grand Inquisitor handled
Oh no. It’s just…’ He started again. ‘You’ve
never been there. The methods he uses…’
Grand Master spoke for the first time, the slight German accent reinforcing
the immense authority he already possessed. ‘I will inform the Grand
Inquisitor of your concerns. Continue with your report.’
Braithwaite stood and turned towards the Grand Master’s throne and
bowed low from the waist in acknowledgement, his hands held stiffly by
his sides. A trickle of sweat ran down his temple. He knew he had overstepped
directed the Surgeon Major’s report onto the next item. ‘Did
you get him to sign the codicil and was there any problem with the death
hoped the tremor in his right hand was not visible to anyone else as he
tried to finish his report as quickly as possible. ‘Yes he signed
it and there was no problem with the death certificate.’ The tremor
became worse and he held his hands in from of him, his right hand grasped
in his left, as he tried to control it. ‘I carried out the post-mortem
myself. It was necessary to have a second signature and I squared it away
with a colleague to countersign. The body was cremated without any questions
- this also destroys, shall we say, the evidence of our questioning.’
George Braithwaite nodded once in conclusion.
it is no more than I would expect,’ said Nomoone.
Argyle leant forward slightly and caught the attention of the Senior Deacon.
‘Yes, Argyle, do you have something to add?’
am rather concerned, as banker to this Grand Order, about the cost of
this venture. It seems to me a rather frivolous outlay of capital when
we have no certain knowledge that Stewart Henlaw holds the key to our
hand moved momentarily in an automatic motion as he started to reach for
his pipe and then he remembered he didn’t have it. Items from the
profane world were not allowed in the chapter meeting.
continued without this small comfort to assist him. ‘It bothers
me that Stewart Henlaw wasn’t even recognised in academic circles.
He ended up proof reading books or some such thing. How can this man be
credited with being the ultimate authority on the world’s darkest
and most important secret?’
are reasonable concerns you have Argyle, but I can assure you our investigations
are based on the strongest of evidence, mainly of a historical nature
but also some very compelling facts of more recent times. Dr Le Mesurier
is the person to allay your concerns. If I could ask you now, Le Mesurier,
to present your findings.’
Albert Le Mesurier was a doctor of Ancient and Medieval History and one
of the world’s leading authorities of his subject.
in heavily accented English with strong nasal overtones he began his report,
‘Stewart Henlaw first came to our attention when he wished to present
a paper on his research. What his motive was behind this action I could,
at that time, only speculate. However, I am now certain his motive was
to expose our organisation to the world and further, to make the world
aware of what it is we are seeking.’
Mesurier was getting into his stride and began pacing the black and white
chequered floor, his hands clasped firmly behind his back as if he was
giving a lecture to the Historical Society.
was fortunate that Stewart Henlaw’s paper came to my attention for
peer approval before it was delivered to a full assembly. I was able to
influence the board and exploit the fact that most academics view their
positions as precarious and will adhere to the popular theory rather than
rocking the boat. Through my influence, Stewart Henlaw’s paper was
rejected before it had a reading and his hypothesis was ridiculed.’
on with it you silly old sod,’ Duncan Argyle muttered in a barely
audible breath as he became more frustrated by Le Mesurier’s posturing
can assure you Argyle, that any expenditure is not frivolous and that
Stewart Henlaw was the only person alive who had knowledge of the general
whereabouts of the scroll. That fact cannot be doubted.’
Argyle wondered if Le Mesurier had heard his muttering and resumed stroking
his moustache with renewed vigour – the expression on his face remaining
was also the last person of his family line that knew where the information
was that could give us the exact location. It has taken me many years
of research to piece all the facts together. The Henlaw family had remained
unidentified in all our investigations for the last century. It was very
cleverly done. Against all human instinct not one member of the family
sought fame or recognition for their achievements and eventually the family
dropped out of the upper echelons of society. Put simply they became part
of the common masses with no apparent desire for wealth and consequently
were beyond our control or influence, or indeed, as some thought, not
worthy of our attention.
Henlaw family owned the ship that brought the information pertaining to
the exact location of the scroll we seek to Britain. It was then lost
to us. As a result of my careful research I can confirm that this information
is somewhere in Liverpool, England but exactly where continues to elude
us. We can, however, be certain that Stewart Henlaw knew of it. It was
this information we hoped to gain from our questioning.’
heads turned towards the Grand Master expecting another rebuke if Le Mesurier
was critical of the Grand Inquisitor, but against all appearances, he
had a shrewd mind and erred on the side of diplomacy.
Stewart Henlaw was a stubborn old man who, by some means, managed to resist
the Grand Inquisitor’s best efforts.’
tension immediately went out of the air and Braithwaite’s baleful
glance at Le Mesurier as he wished he had been as astute went unnoticed.
are two main aspects that should be considered. The first, the historical
one goes back to the time of the early years of our order. The documents
written by Saint Paul, known as the Saint Paul Manuscript, led our early
Brethren to excavate beneath the Jerusalem Temple and recover one of Moses’
scrolls. The manuscripts were later stolen from us in medieval times.
have been many attacks on our Order by monarchs, dictators and the church
in an attempt to possess the knowledge that is written on the Moses scroll
that we have. It is only the people who took the Saint Paul Manuscript
who would know that two scrolls exist and one is incomplete without the
other. It is the same people who would have sole knowledge of the whereabouts
of every ancient cache of esoteric secrets, including the exact location
of the second Moses Scroll’
Mesurier paused for effect before announcing the result of his research.
this revelation Duncan Argyle sat more upright on his bench and listened
more intently. He hadn’t realised so much had been found out and
he was now keen to know where the trail would lead.
second aspect that we should consider is of a more modern time. It is
well known that Napoleon raided this island of Malta on his journey to
Egypt. It is less well known that this was yet another attack on our order,
his intention to take from our possession the Moses Scroll that we have.
Whether he knew of the second scroll and its believed location on Malta
is not known.
importantly, as a result of his expedition to Egypt his savants collected
a large number of artefacts, amongst which were innumerable papyri.’
yes. Please continue Doctor, we are anxious to learn of your findings,’
said Nomoone, who was clearly becoming as irritated as Duncan Argyle had
so,’ said Le Mesurier, bowing his head once. ‘The start of
the nineteenth century saw Napoleon’s fleet blockaded by the British
thus preventing it leaving Egypt. As was usual in those times an arrangement
was made and the British seized over fifty tons of Ancient Egyptian artefacts,
including the Rosetta Stone. Along with the numerous papyri seized was
a single sheet that told of the removal of ancient scrolls from Egypt
by a person we now know as Moses.’
Mesurier paused once again as he removed his pince-nez spectacles to polish
them on his tie. Almost as an aside he continued to talk while he rubbed
vigorously at a stubborn speck on one of the lenses. ‘If this papyrus
dates from approximately 1800BC and describes the scrolls as being from
“Zep Pet” or the first time then we can only wonder at how
old these scrolls actually are.’
his clean eyewear it was as if he was seeing the room for the first time.
He surveyed the outer temple with a critical gaze, his eyes roaming over
the three rows of tiered benches down each side of the temple before they
came to rest on the lectern that was flanked by two tall columns. Beyond
was the Grand Master’s throne, raised on a dais and dwarfing the
figure of the Grand Master as he sat and glared back, his patience stretched
to its limit with Le Mesurier’s pontificating.
his thread, Le Mesurier continued somewhat chastened. ‘That aside,
my investigations took a positive turn when I discovered that, once again,
the Henlaw family had prevented our Royal Order from possessing what is
rightfully and anciently declared as ours.
Henlaw family had a large financial investment in the British fleet and
as a result of this the papyrus ended up in their possession. It is this
papyrus that Stewart Henlaw used to obtain much of the information for
his paper. And so I end where I began with Stewart Henlaw, the Ancient
Egyptian papyrus and his paper for the Historical Society.
do not hesitate to conclude that somewhere accessible to Stewart Henlaw
remained this ancient papyrus.’ Le Mesurier faced Nomoone as he
finished his last sentence and nodded his head once.
stood up from the bench on which he had been sitting. He was wearing black
evening dress, as were all the members of the group. He also wore a richly
embroidered lambskin fleece. Like an apron it was fastened around his
waist and it hung down the front of him to reach his knees. The thirty-second
degree lodge had closed and the brethren had retired for dinner. This
was an extra-ordinary assembly of these eight people. The Sacred Chapter
had been opened in the Ancient Order of The Knights Templar.
informality was allowed at these assemblies and none of the Knights donned
the more formal white mantles and spurs. A simple sash with the red Templar
Cross was sufficient.
uninitiated observer would be forgiven for thinking Nomoone had a disability
as he walked in a stiff-legged gait towards the centre of the black and
white chequered tiled floor. This however was the prescribed step of the
craft during an open lodge and he adopted it now as a mark of respect
towards the person he was about to address. He turned exactly ninety degrees
to his left and standing rigidly to attention nodded his head three times
in slow succession.
long ago became a tradition that the Knights Templar forsook the use of
a gavel and signalled pronouncements and performance of ritual by silent
nods of the head. This afforded them the necessity of being able to meet
in absolute secrecy without the tell-tale knocking of the Grand Master’s
was facing the Grand Master who normally remained silent throughout any
discussion of business and reserved his judgement for the end. Egon Johannes
casually raised his hand, but that simple gesture was almost like a priest
giving a benediction.
an about turn Nomoone spoke to Sergio Ubertos. ‘Right Worthy Grand
Guardian, what is the first duty of a Brother of the Royal Order?’
Senior Deacon, it is to see the Chapter of the Order of the Temple of
St. John of Jerusalem, Rhodes and Malta properly guarded, as well against
Master Masons, Fellow Crafts and Entered Apprentices, as against the rest
of the world besides,’ Sergio Ubertos replied.
you a brother of that Order?’ asked Nomoone.
am so highly honoured,’ confirmed Sergio Ubertos.
do your duty,’ commanded Nomoone.
was only now, with the temple safely guarded, that Nomoone addressed the
seated figure. ‘Right Worshipful Grand Master, you have heard of
our findings and our fears that the profane may soon possess the ability
to read the ancient signs drawn by the Great Architect. What shall be
done in this matter?’
the Grand Master spoke it was in a rich baritone as he handed down his
judgement. ‘Go and enquire what young Mr. Parker has found out.’
he shall pay the penalty no less severe than a Royal Brother or Knight
who has not upheld his obligation,’ the Right Worshipful Grand Master
~ ~ ~ | | | ~ ~ ~
had spent most of the day preparing the evening meal. She stood still
for a moment and surveyed the dining room, it had to be set correctly
and she had taken her time to ensure it was. The candlelight reflected
from the silverware and colours danced from the crystal and such opulence
seemed almost obscene for one man to dine.
would only allow the villa to be lit by candles, and then not too many.
The electric lights had been removed years ago - they didn’t leave
enough shadows. She always felt that something lurked in the shadows when
he was in the room, but of course that was nonsense, surely.
tidied her tousled hair and wiped a smudge of flour from her face with
the back of her hand and then covered over the mirror with the black drape
that was kept bunched above it for this purpose. She made a mental check
that all the other mirrors were covered over in the house and, as on most
evenings recently, her thoughts drifted back through the years. When had
all this started?
she was first married he was a good-looking man, handsome with jet-black
wavy hair and intelligent as well. He completely mastered the skills of
brain surgery, his chosen profession, and then taken them to a higher
level where they almost became an art. It was as if he performed miracles
on the most hopeless of cases, delivered a healing power beyond any explanation
offered by science. Almost too perfect some had said. Progressively, things
had changed. He started to lose patients until it reached the stage where
more died than he saved.
whole personality seemed to change and the change manifested itself in
his features. The changes were gradual, she was sure she was not imagining
it but she didn’t have any photographs to judge against. He had
insisted that there should be no wedding photographs and he always refused
to have his photograph taken, almost to the point of violence if anyone
insisted. She couldn’t pinpoint the changes, they were virtually
imperceptible, but often when he was in a rage his face became an ungodly
mask that made her blood run cold.
herself from her reverie she called to her daughter. ‘Annabella,
have you got changed into your clean dress yet? He’ll be here soon.’
normally tried to have her daughter in bed by the time her husband came
home. His rages had been getting worse and he seemed intolerant of the
tiniest thing. For some reason Annabella had insisted on staying up to
see her father tonight.
you think Daddy will like the little cakes I baked for him?’
sure he will, although he might save them for tomorrow. He’s had
a long day.’
that mean he’ll be angry? I hoped the cakes would make him happy.
I don’t like it when he shouts at you mummy.’
sure he’ll be fine, now run along and brush your hair,’ Millie
said clapping her hands in front of her and shooing her daughter towards
her room like a farmer’s wife shooing hens.
With a dread that increased daily she anticipated her husband’s arrival home. She was tired. Tired of the constant belittlement, the ridicule and the tempers but most of all she was tired of the beatings.
had received the summons that afternoon. A messenger had delivered it
to his office. It would be a long night and this thought put him in a
bad mood. He hadn’t had much sleep the previous night with his wife
sobbing and moaning and he certainly wouldn’t get any tonight. The
thought crossed his mind to phone his wife and tell her to have his black
suit and shirt laid out ready but he decided she could do it after he
got home. It would keep her out of the way while he enjoyed his meal,
upright, he never slouched or lounged, in the back of his gleaming Bentley,
he stared vacantly through the blacked-out windows at the passing buildings
as his chauffeur negotiated the traffic and the narrow streets of Valletta.
He was going over what he had to do tonight. He had performed the procedure
countless times before but that didn’t stop him running through
the expected scenario in his mind’s eye. It had to be carried out
correctly - there were no second chances.
Bentley slowed and came to a halt for the first time during the journey
and his vision focused on the portico of his villa. This was the usual
way. Any police officer noticing the discrete standard on his car would
stop the traffic and allow his chauffeur to continue the journey unhindered.
The journey had taken exactly seventeen and a half minutes.
knew he had arrived home. The atmosphere had thickened perceptively and
a certain tension hung in the air.
strode into the dining room where Millie and Annabella waited. ‘What’s
she doing still up?’ he demanded, pointing to Annabella.
moved to stand behind her daughter as she sat at the dining table. The
innocent childish smile of greeting faded from her lips in reaction to
his outburst and her eyes shone bright with tears.
kept her up because she wanted to see you. You’ve been late home
every evening this week,’ Millie explained.
when have I got to answer to a young child about the hours I keep?’
he asked, twisting her explanation to fuel his temper. ‘Well?’
the birth of his daughter he had hated her. From that time onwards everything
had seemed to go wrong.
knowledge that he was a first-class brain surgeon had given him certain
arrogance, until his license to practise was withdrawn. There were too
many complaints and his record showed too many fatalities. Perhaps it
was true that he didn’t hold life as dear as when he was a young
man and that he found he wasn’t fighting for the lives of his patients
as hard as he used to. It was almost as if something had possessed him,
taken control of his body and given him power - the ability to know a
person’s thoughts and a command over life and death in the mortal
body was aging and he felt that his spirit, the Ancient Egyptians called
it a Ka, needed a male heir to continue its immortality.
his wife was carrying his second child she had aroused his anger so much
that he had to discipline her. Of course it was her fault. If she hadn’t
incensed him so much he wouldn’t have had to strike her. It was
the final blow to her midriff that caused the bloody mess to leave her
womb and slip down her legs. And he remembered the form of the foetus,
curled round, as Millie held it in her hands. Its entrance into the world
was four months too early but it was just discernible that if it had lived
it would have been a baby boy.
evening when he saw Millie it reminded him how easily she had given up
his son, ejected him from her body in revenge for the correction she so
closed her eyes, partly in resignation for what was to come but mainly
to shut out the terrifying evil that emanated from her husband’s
eyes. A hundred thousand tortured souls stared out from the black pools
in screaming indignation at their eternal unrest.
open-handed slap across her face served to focus her mind. It was always
the same, breathlessness followed as his bunched fist penetrated the guard
of her tensed stomach muscles. She could do no more than wait for the
systematic beating to end. She couldn’t scream for she had no breath
to do it.
was taking his time, drawing out the anticipation. Millie could hear movement
despite the distraction of her tortured lungs – then a scream; a
child’s high-pitched scream. Her daughter’s scream. God no!
Not Annabella! He’s never touched her before. She prayed that he
had snapped in Annabella’s mind. She couldn’t watch her mother
continue to suffer; she wanted it to stop. She knew her father wouldn’t
hurt her. She grabbed his arm. She was wrong!
attempt to restrain him was no more than a nuisance, but one that served
to infuriate him and push him over the edge of sanity and beyond reasoning.
lay a finger on me you disgusting child. Do you need to be reminded of
who I am? Does my authority not scare you?’
her off like a dog may shake a rat; her ineffectual grip was easily broken.
He seized her - A firm grip with his left hand at the nape of her neck.
for a suitable implement his eyes roamed the table, first falling on the
fork in his daughter’s place setting. Then his eyes shifted to the
right slightly and his gaze fell on the bread knife. Thoughts of paring
slices of flesh from his daughter filled his mind and he reached out his
hand. He could already picture the blood oozing through the freshly opened
pores in her subcutaneous flesh.
fingers curled deftly around the handle and the old feelings came back.
The feelings of power over life and death he had experienced a hundred
times before with a patient laid out on the operating table and the burning
question presented itself once again; - Shall he grant them the gift of
life or condemn to hell as he took their souls?
a moth to a flame his eyes were drawn to the flickering light of the candle
and a new evil possessed him.
first Annabella thought he was going to use the candle to light the way
as he led her to her bedroom. She felt the heat on her face and thought
he had accidentally held the candle too close.
burning me daddy!’ she exclaimed.
I know,’ he whispered. The strange inflection in his voice terrified
her and she tried to break free of his grasp. His fingers pressed even
harder into the flesh of her neck causing it to bruise. Like a naughty
puppy he held her slender young body in the air and her feet kicked and
struggled helplessly as she tried to escape the flame.
first her cheek blackened and then like a ripe grape a blister of water
hung from her burning face until it burst, revealing the tender flesh
beneath and nearly extinguishing the torturous flame.
screamed once and then the agony became too much. She could only manage
to groan and mumble, ‘sorry daddy, I won’t do it again –
please stop, please.’
strength of her kicks diminished and the skin on the side of her face
seemed to melt and creep away from the flame. The pain reached a crescendo
and stopped. Suddenly she felt nothing.
threw her still body down on top of her mother.
still struggling for breath, reached for her daughter. She cradled the
limp body in her arms, her tears fell onto the roasted flesh and she knew
that her only reason to live had gone.
held Annabella until her husband had left. Then, carrying Annabella’s
limp body, blinded by her tears and stumbling into the furniture she made
her way to her bedroom. After laying the child gently on her bed she took
a bottle from its hiding place in the pocket of a coat in her wardrobe.
was the last resort. She had been careful not to let her doctor become
suspicious and out of the sleeping tablets he prescribed every month she
had gradually hoarded a whole month’s supply.
first there was no real intention to use them. They were almost like a
safety net - giving a person confidence to continue walking the tightrope
but offering a way out if they couldn’t go on.
read the handwritten words on the label - two to be taken 30 minutes before
bedtime, DO NOT EXCEED STATED DOSE. Filling the glass from the decanter
on her bedside cabinet she swallowed as many tablets as she could. She
did this again and again until the bottle was empty and then turned back
black Bentley rode into the unlit courtyard of the Grandmaster’s
Palace and slowed behind the statue of Neptune. Before it had completely
halted a figure detached itself from the shadows and rushed to open the
rear passenger door. It was a mild source of amusement to him that people
were afraid to look him in the eyes; perhaps within them they saw their
is ready for you, my lord’, the man said in barely a whisper.
well, lead the way’, he instructed.
Palace was closed to tourists and the two figures made their way across
the darkened room that housed the museum. Without any warning he stopped
by an exhibit. It was a covered coach with black livery - the view of
the interior obscured by the dark curtains drawn across the porthole-like
windows but nevertheless he knew that the deep-buttoned seat was of red
leather and he thought he remembered how comfortable it was to sit on.
another age horses would have drawn him in this very coach as he arrived
to carry out his duty - not here but in Mdina, The Silent City.
‘Carry on’, he said brusquely. And the man continued to lead the way toward the small spiral stairway at the far end of a disused corridor.
~ ~ ~ | | | ~ ~ ~
Harrison had spent the time pacing the ten-foot square area in which he
had to move. It was impossible to sit or lie still. The painful, hollow
feeling in his stomach could only be slightly alleviated by moving about.
To remain stationary was unbearable, his intestines writhed incessantly
and his body squirmed in fear. Each minute seemed to take an eternity.
Not that he was in any hurry to keep his appointment with the Grand Inquisitor.
with every other metal item he carried, his gold wristwatch had been taken
away and this increased the torment of waiting, not knowing when they
would come for him or how long he had left on this earth.
only illumination in his cell was provided by an oil lamp, hung beyond
the reach of his arm outside the bars of his cell door. The faint, flickering
light cast eerie shadows onto the rough-hewn floor. Ghostly fingers reached
out to snatch the life away from him and claim his immortal soul. The
shadows of Hell encroached on his solitude and tormented his last hours
of sanity before his tortured nerves would make him dance in the last
spasm of his death.
losing my mind, he thought. A draught had made the lamp swing and it appeared
as if the shadows of the bars on the cell door were fingers reaching towards
him. Something had caused the air movement that made the lamp swing.
time for fear was past. There was only a mind-numbing realisation that
he would face the inevitable. He would die!
was not death he feared the most; that would come as a sweet release at
the very end. Although Harrison knew he must not show any weakness, to
do so would only result in the agony he had to endure being prolonged
by his executioner. He tried to stand but was unable to. The ability to
walk was no longer his.
of the men who had entered the cell took hold of Harrison by his arms
and lifted him to his feet. The other two men stripped him; his clothes
were torn from his body.
took pride in his appearance and usually dressed in suits tailored by
the most skilled craftsmen of Saville Row. One of Harrison’s suits
cost more than a salaried professional would earn in a month. It broke
his heart to hear the hand spun and woven cloth being ripped from his
body. It was strange how the mind avoided the notion of death for as long
as possible and even at this late hour contemplate the ruining of a good
suit. Then realisation returned; he would not need this suit or any other
Harrison was hoodwinked and a noose placed around his neck. This was not
the method by which he would die; this would only be used to lead him
to his executioner. Feeling the rope of the noose become taught he was
compelled to follow it as the two men holding his arms assisted him in
last walk was over too soon. He was in another room. Harrison sensed it
was much larger than the cell he had just occupied. The presence of evil
that existed here was palpable and he knew he could not face what he was
expected to endure.
his eyes adjusted, he identified the object that would be the method of
his execution. Laid flat in the centre of the stone floor was a wooden
Tau. Comparable to a capital ‘T’ shape this was very often
depicted in mediaeval paintings as the shape of the cross on which Christ
was crucified. It was a formidable, massive structure, over ten feet long,
constructed from twelve-inch square baulks of timber. The side beams extending
four feet either side, a far greater distance than any man’s outstretched
arms can span.
surgeon’s operating lamp that hung from the ceiling lighted the
whole macabre scene. The white painted walls still held the ancient torch
brackets that were now redundant and at the back of the room a shiny chrome
hospital trolley stood ready to receive his dead body.
out on an instrument trolley, like surgical tools, were three steel spikes
exactly seven inches long and the instrument that would be used to drive
these through his living flesh, securing him to the tau until death gave
him the release, which by then he would so desperately be seeking.
stark contrast to the clinical surroundings, a large oak table at one
side of the room held relics from the medieval past. Branding irons, blackened
and distorted by heat were systematically arranged. Thick leather restraining
belts and harnesses, perfectly preserved by the dry atmosphere lay alongside
them - neighbours to a hundred different tools of the torturer’s
trade, the use of which has long since been forgotten.
this was too much for Paul. A lesser man would have expired immediately
on sight of this device by which it was intended he should die. Instead
it was Harrison’s nerve that cracked.
Please, No. For God’s sake, not like this. Use your sword and make
it quick. Please.’ He was sobbing. His tongue was dry and the words
coming from his mouth were thick with the passion of his pleading and
difficult to understand.
emotion, his jailers moved him into position and laid him on the tau,
his arms outstretched along the side beams. The mental suffering was beyond
endurance and Paul Harrison slipped into unconsciousness affording him
a temporary respite from this terrible evil.