“Doctor Schneider, please stop. I don’t want to do it.” Imogene watched as he held up the syringe and squirted the liquid. Cold drops fell on her bare arm as she tried to push him away, but he grabbed her, stuck in the needle and pressed the plunger. She clutched the edge of the white leather couch.
“Hush, child. You’ll be fine, close your eyes. You are safe here, remember it’s just a dream.”
Her head swam, and she felt slightly sick. She fought back the waves of darkness, but it was no use. Her fingers relaxed, and she let go.
Kukulcon came for her.
With her arms bound, the young woman stumbled toward the bottomless limestone sinkhole and stared into the pit’s black depths as the Shaman pushed her closer. She fought against him, how could this be happening?
The drummers’ bright feather headdresses nodded and chanted as they beat the taut leather, and sweat gleamed on their backs in the firelight as they swayed in unison. The girl’s heart raced as she struggled. She didn’t want to die.
The Shaman gripped her harder and bowed low before the new king. He lifted his spear. “Yum Kaax, God of the Harvest, we offer you this sacrifice. Bless our crops and our people.”
He bowed again and dragged her to the edge of the sinkhole. The girl dug in her heels as Kukulcon pushed her. She whipped her foot around his ankle, pulling him off balance, and his primordial scream echoed as they fell together.
Imogene heard Professor Schneider’s distant voice.
“Imogene, I’ll count down from five to one. At one you will awaken, feeling relaxed and happy. Five, four, three…”
She winced as she opened her eyes. The professor’s face was close to hers and she could see her reflection in his wire-rimmed glasses.
“I saw you in my dream, professor. And I saw Ezekiel, the lawyer who murdered me. It was so real it scared me!”
He stood and helped her off the couch. “Don’t worry, my child. A bad dream can’t hurt you.”
Nicola, the professor’s assistant, walked her to the waiting room door and opened it. Her father, Doctor Pembroke, rose from his seat.
“We’re finished for today,” she said. “You may return to the ward.”
Dr. Pembroke pushed past them, into the office. “Professor Schneider, I have patients to attend to. When can we go home?”
The professor touched her father’s shoulder. “The authorities have the final say, not me. I’ll ask the Home Office when I deliver my report.”
Imogene clasped her father’s hand. “Daddy, let’s go back to the ward. Mommy and Aunt Sybil will worry.”
Her father took her hand, turned, and without another word led her down the stark corridor.
Inspector Grant studied the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary as they entered his office. The Prime Minister’s almost-too-perfect features were marred only by a crescent shaped scar on his forehead. A polo accident, it was rumored, received when he fell and his horse kicked him. His dark hair framed an almost frail complexion, hinting that he suffered from asthma. His ready smile and friendly manner had led to an election landslide. The Home Secretary was an old friend, an ex-royal navy commander he respected and understood. Alex’s straight backed stance matched his own.
“This way please.”
Inspector Grant looked around Swindon Constabulary’s packed incident room, and saw everyone was present. He rapped the table with his pointer.
“Welcome. I’d like to introduce The Prime Minister, Frank Carrington, and Home Secretary, Alexander Brittan. The prime minister wants to be brought up to date on the details of the Stonehenge bombing and massacre. Detective McCullage?”
Jim McCullage stood, loosened his collar and opened the file in front of him. “Sirs, first we had two kidnappings in Swindon, then two shopkeepers went missing in Monkton St Michael. It turns out that Ezekiel Yates, a lawyer and leader of a radical Christian cult, had a mission to rid the West Country of ‘sinners’. He kidnapped Xantara Pembroke, wife a Monkton St Michael doctor, because he believed she was a witch.”
Frank Carrington held up his hand. “Why did they think that?”
“Well, she and seven other women practice an ancient form of healing. The eldest daughters of eight village families have done this for thousands of years. They call themselves ‘The Guardians of Avebury Circle’, which is a monument similar to Stonehenge but much older.”
“So, what did this Yates man do with her?”
“He locked her in the crypt of a local village church.”
McCullage glanced again at his folder as he recounted the events, telling how Xantara’s seven-year-old daughter Imogene had earlier been crushed by falling rocks on the Isle of Angels. What was assumed to be an accident turned out to be a murder by Ezekiel Yates.
“He wanted to punish her mother,” McCullage said. “He also tried to kill her son, by initiating a car accident. The girl’s parents removed her body from the morgue and the Guardians performed a healing ceremony at Avebury Circle.”
The room became quiet. The prime minister glanced at the home secretary, then back at McCullage.
“And—well, she came back to life, as we all saw on the News Broadcast.”
The prime minister slapped his hand on the desk. “That isn’t possible. It must have been a trick!”
McCullage took a deep breath. “You haven’t heard anything yet,” he said, softly. “Here goes. As many people witnessed, the daughter also levitated, and delivered a message from the so-called Council of Elders, right in front of a huge crowd and the world’s press.”
He kept talking, hoping to get his story out and believed, praying these two important people wouldn’t simply walk out. He told about Ezekiel and his followers murdering the two shopkeepers, a young gay lad, and an Indian Sikh in the crypt, and how they dragged Xantara through underground tunnels to the island ruin and tried to burn her at the stake.
“Her husband alerted the pastor and me, and we managed to rescue her,” he said.
The Prime Minister frowned. “Well, why didn’t you arrest them?”
“They fled back through the tunnels. When lightning struck the tower and collapsed the tunnels, we believed them dead.”
Inspector Grant’s eyes narrowed. “McCullage, tell him about the underground city.”
McCullage knew this was getting weirder and weirder. Would these important visitors just throw up their hands and leave?
“Ezekiel’s cousin Obadiah used to be in charge of an underground facility near Corsham, built in the fifties to protect dignitaries from nuclear attack. It was decommissioned years ago, and now he uses it as his personal playground. He kidnapped local ‘heretics,’ held them prisoner and tortured them to ‘convert’ them. The group stored explosives in the old armory, and used them to blow up Stonehenge at the summer solstice ceremonies.”
He sat down and looked at his hands. Hell, he wouldn’t have believed such an outlandish story, either.
Inspector Grant nodded to him and turned to Sam Blackbridge. “We’ll now hear from the New York CIA agent, Mr. Blackbridge.”
Sam blinked and stood. “Jeremiah Yates, Ezekiel’s cousin, bungled a bank robbery in New York and fled to Wiltshire. He heads up the Phineas Priesthood, an even more radical religious cult, whose agenda is to eliminate anyone not Christian and white. We believe he’s determined to develop Priesthood chapters in Britain, and the Stonehenge massacre was their first major atrocity to cleanse the country of ‘sinners.’”
The prime minister wheezed, then cleared his throat. “Do you believe they’re planning another terrorist act?”
“Yes, sir, I do. They are true fanatics, convinced of their own superiority and that they are acting within God’s will!”
Frank Carrington turned back to McCullage. “Levitation? Detective, do you seriously believe that?”
Damn. There it was. The whole world saw it, and Carrington asks him if he believed it? “No one knows how she did it,” he said. “She ordered the world to abandon its selfish ways, but she spoke with a mature woman’s voice, and it wasn’t an eight-year-old’s speech pattern.”
“I thought you said she was seven.”
“The day of the speech was her birthday, sir.”
Frank stood. “Inspector Grant, what’s the status of the terrorists, and where is the girl now?”
“We think the terrorists died in the church explosion after a second attempt to kidnap her. We won’t know for sure until we clear the tunnels. Doctor Schneider is evaluating the girl at the Porton Down research facility, as you asked.”
Inspector Grant stood stiffly. “Prime Minister, why did you want to keep her at a secret chemical weapon facility?”
“For several reasons. First, it’s close to her family home. Second, the complex is secure, and Doctor Schneider is highly qualified. His primary job is to research chemical warfare’s psychological effects on the general populace, but he has previous experience with multifaceted childhood issues. He’ll use hypnosis and/or drugs to uncover any deceptions.”
Ernst Schneider sat at his desk and played the audio of the session he’d just concluded with the Pembroke girl. He called Nicola over. “The child is such a good subject,” he said, smiling. “She entered a past life within minutes, and spoke with amazing clarity. I must keep her here, there is so much to learn!”
Nicola sat opposite him, slid her elbows onto the table, and rested her head on her hands. “What happened?”
“She went back to a past life, where she was a human sacrifice to appease a Mayan god. But the remarkable part was that she recognized at least two people from the present day in this past life!”
Nicola frowned. “How could she?”
Schneider tapped his pen against the desk edge as he pondered. “It’s collective soul reincarnation,” he said, slowly. “The phenomenon is well documented, the most famous case occurred close by in Bath, Avon. A psychiatrist became intrigued when several new patients were plagued with similar bad dreams. The chance of mere coincidence was too great, so he decided to investigate them.”
Nicola’s eyebrows went up. “What was the collective dream?”
The professor eyed her, unsure of how much to tell her. Finally, he relaxed. “The group experienced being members of the Cathars, a twelfth century religious sect in Southern France. Pope Innocent the Third declared them heretics for their belief in reincarnation, and called for a crusade against them. Thousands were cruelly murdered.”
Nicola watched his face closely, as if something troubled her. She leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. “How did that psychiatrist connect the group?” she asked. “That would seem unlikely.”
It was a question he’d asked himself, and researched. The answer was actually quite simple. “He noticed that many of his patients described very similar dreams. After questioning each patient at length, many showed remarkable recall, down to such fixed details as names, family members, and nearby villages. He travelled to France, looked up old records, and dug deep to find the names and locations his patients revealed to him. He couldn’t see how such a diverse group could have independently found the information. In any case, they sought help, because the strange dreams disrupted their daily life.”
She shook her head. “So, you and I could have experienced past lives together? Do you really believe that?”
“Yes, I believe we could have met before, but relationships might change with each reincarnation. You could be my sister in one life, for example, and my father in another. Each life is designed to work out your Kama. A cruel character in one life becomes the victim next time around. The soul learns their life lesson, or not, then has to repeat the experience.”
He paused, thinking. “We have to keep her here until my research is finished,” he said, almost to himself.
“How will you arrange that? She has a family, and needs to go to school, lead a normal life.”
Schneider formed a steeple with his fingers. “The Prime Minister asked me to evaluate her, and these tests can take a long time. I’ll keep her here until I’m sure I have all the information we need. She could reveal new truths to me, and it could prove to be a famous case.”
“What about her message and levitation?” Nicola asked. “The authorities will want an explanation for that, it was seen by half the world.”
“Of course. I have my methods, and I’ll drill into those issues. They mesh nicely into my private research, so I can extend them as long as it takes. Besides, her past lives can connect us with this Council of Elders. I’m convinced they and the Rahmiel personage must live in the spiritual world.”