Books: Baden-Powell's Beads: Jerusalem (Book 4)

Jerusalem (Beads, Book 4)Synopsis: A second threat to mankind emerges. Ancient predictions begin to play out. The President of the United States is persuaded to let the Homeland Security team of Patrick, Adnan, and now Pam follow leads in the Middle East. Simultaneously, the world’s scientific community hatches a desperate scheme to protect the planet from ultimate destruction by a monstrous asteroid. The long predicted, cataclysmic event that would destroy life on Earth seems inevitable.

Thirteen very old men, each holders of an original bead, assemble in an ancient castle in southern England. They’ve known this day would come. Will their efforts be enough?

Events from thousands of years ago and woven into the fabric of the first three books converge upon our heroes beneath the Dome of the Rock in ancient Jerusalem. Can Patrick put the pieces together in time? How can they possibly play out the scene which requires the death of all but one of the holders of the beads? And even if successful, what will be left of Earth and mankind?

 

Sample Chapters - Chapters 1 & 2

C H A P T E R   1

England

July 2005

Their purpose was to save the world, and a less likely assemblage was difficult to imagine. Walter Eades, the youngest of this group of old men, stood with the assistance of canes, one strapped to each arm, his polio-stricken legs lost inside the finely tailored cloth of his pressed pants. His shoulders filled the fabric of his suit coat in defiance to age and in testimony to a lifetime of walking with his arms. A shock of white hair fell over his wrinkled forehead. The artistically embroidered emblem on his left coat pocket matched those of the others. Though they’d never met, each traced back to a common bond. Releasing his canes, he leaned his hands on the heavy mahogany table, about which sat the other twelve.

The dark wood paneling and heavy curtains hanging from sturdy rods muffled the sounds of the old men, each trying to make himself heard. A lone servant scampered about the massive room, refilling glasses and supplying other amenities. A fire roared in the huge fireplace opposite the far end of the table. Lit candles mounted in wall sconces flickered light off bald heads. Smoke from several pipes added to the gravitas.

Eades shifted his spectacles and glanced at the list before him. His eyes flitted between it and the men as he attached names to faces. More names than faces. They’d lost a few. Would it matter?

Dark, heavy clouds rolled off the cold Atlantic and shrouded the English coastline. Cold rains obscured the darkening view of Brownsea Island as nightfall enveloped the ancient castle. A few heads turned at the clap of thunder.

“Run along now, lad,” Eades bellowed to the servant above the din. “We’ve business to attend.”

The servant picked up his tray and faced Eades. Middle-aged with olive skin, black curly hair and almond eyes, the employee of the castle bowed and turned to go, but first swept one last gaze over the room.

Eades didn’t give him another thought. Weightier matters held his attention. “Gentlemen, if we could please come to order.”

Slowly, the octogenarians concluded their conversations and shifted their attention to the head of the table. Two fiddled with their hearing aids, the high-pitched whine of the devices ignored by the others. Wind whistled through the stones of the outer walls, but the rain had abated.

“I would like to take a moment for those who are no longer with us and those who came before.”

Heads bowed in unison. Some folded their hands on the table. Each knew his time drew near. At this stage of life, each had come to terms with his own mortality.

“Thank you,” Eades said. “We’ll begin by calling role. When I announce your name, please introduce yourself and take us back through the lineage.” He fumbled with the folder before him and lowered into his seat, unclasping the canes from his arms, propping them against his chair.

“Trustworthy!”

At the far end of the table, a portly old man dressed in the finest hunting attire Purdey and Sons had to offer pushed back from the table. The ball and claw legs of the chair scraped across the cold marble floor like nails on a chalkboard. A few men reached to adjust their hearing aids.

“Nevill.” He glanced about the room. “H.W. Nevill. Named after me grandfather. A man of the cloth, he was.” He reached to his neck, unbound the tartan ascot, and extracted a leather thong from within his shirt. “Passed this on to me directly. Me own father died in the war shortly after I was born.” He didn’t offer the bead for viewing; merely rubbed it between his thumb and forefinger before reclaiming his seat.

“Loyal!”

Two men struggled to their feet and looked to Eades for direction. The leader nodded to the man at his left. The other remained standing.

“Earle. Daniel Earle. Named after my uncle, who was childless and passed this to me through his brother—my father.” He peered across the table to the other Loyal holder.

“Gidney,” the second man said. “My father, Captain Frank Gidney, was Camp Chief of Gilwell Park. Second to Lord Baden-Powell.”

At the mention of their founder’s name, the gentleman sitting next to Eades pounded his fist on the table. “And may he burn in hell! But for him and his damned beads, my family might be at home instead of hiding with relatives in the country, fearing for their heads.”

The man appeared ready to continue with his decrement of the deceased English lord, but his face reddened and his voice caught in his throat, resulting in a fit of coughing. Eades helped settle him back in his chair and offered him water, patting his shoulder and offering words of consolation. He then brought the group back to order.

“‘Helpful’ is next on the list, and that would be mine. I’m Walter Eades,” he said. “This was passed to me through my mother, the only child of Captain F.S. Morgan of Glamorgan.”

 And on about the room it went: Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent: each man the holder of one of the beads brought back from South Africa by Lord Baden-Powell in 1888.

Until just recently, there’d been six other bead holders: two died of natural causes, four were murdered. All within the last two months. Baden-Powell had kept one bead himself, taking it with him to his grave. Four others had been returned to the Zulu people in 1987—twenty-four beads in all.

Eades read the names of the three holders beheaded by Zulus in London two months prior. The fourth, Alphonse Baroni, had died in the States and passed his, Hopeful, to a young American doctor who was later shot dead in London. Sir W. Crestmore died of natural causes hastened by those pursuing him. James Wilkerson, his butler and friend, died of bullet wounds a day later. Eades believed the beads of these last three to be in the possession of three Americans.

“Gentlemen, we’ve assembled here for what will certainly be our last adventure. Sir Crestmore, God rest his soul, knew this day would come, as I’m sure did each of you.

“Eight of Lord Baden-Powell’s beads have fallen into wrong hands.” The man to his left cleared his throat, but stifled himself in response to a sharp glare from Eades. “Baden-Powell and later, Sir Crestmore, believed it best the beads remained scattered. This strategy has proven ineffective.

“I trust all of you have your affairs in order.” He paused and cleared his throat. “Before coming, I said my good-byes to three children and ten grandchildren. I suspect I’ll not see them again in this life.” Some of the men exchanged glances. Others nodded in acquiescence.

“I wish I could tell you more of our purpose. That it is necessary is beyond doubt. I’m sure each of you feels the same, otherwise, you’d not be here.” He watched their faces. All eyes trained on him; some with expressions of fear, others with quiet acceptance. None lacked the determination born of faith, their bond strong and unwavering.

“Accommodations for us here have been prepared through a trust set aside by Sir Crestmore. I do not know when or how the call will come. But it will come.” Heads nodded. They knew. “The grounds about the castle are secure, but I must urge you not to venture far. Always go in pairs and let others know your whereabouts. May God have mercy on our souls.”

 

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C H A P T E R   2

Washington, D.C.

Response to the U.S. bombing of the terrorist camp north of Aksum, Ethiopia, had been swift and predictable. Despite radioactive samples unquestionably linking this camp with the London attack two months prior, the U.S. press and many foreign governments were quick to condemn the American unilateral response. Covert Homeland Security agents Patrick Dartson and Adnan Fazeph had called in the bombing raid and were subjected to weeks of intense questioning. Pam Blanchard, not yet fully a part of their team, was sheltered from the onslaught and not officially recognized as having taken part, though her role had been crucial.

Patrick and Adnan sat before their director for what had become a daily meeting. Patrick had about had enough of politics.

“Sir, we need to get back in the field. There are things—”

“You’re not going anywhere, Agent Dartson.” The Director of Homeland Security folded his hands, rested his elbows on his desk, and ran his thumbs along the bridge of his nose. “Not until this media feeding frenzy dies. Can you imagine the flak? ‘Rogue, bomb-happy agents sent back to work.’ No, sir. We’ve got enough trouble.”

“Sir, there is something we not tell yet,” Adnan said.

“Oh, shit,” Patrick mumbled, frowning at his partner. Until now, they’d kept the issue of Baden-Powell’s beads to themselves—and for good reason.

Cisneros stretched his arms over his head and gave an enormous yawn, born more of fatigue than boredom. He grabbed a stack of papers from his desk and tapped it on the desktop, bringing order to the disarray before slipping them in his top drawer.

“And what could possibly be left to tell, Agent Fazeph?”

Adnan glanced toward his partner and raised an apologetic eyebrow. Patrick swept his hands, palms up, toward the director, giving Adnan the stage. He strongly disagreed with what Adnan was about to do, but knew it futile to intervene.

“Sir, we believe the terrorist, Lij Mered, has more powerful weapon.”

“Another nuke? That’s hardly news. We know he had two: the one he used in London and the one we confiscated in Ethiopia. Him getting another is something we’re going to have to assume—”

“Something stronger than nuke, sir.”

Here we go.

“Stronger than a nuke?” Cisneros couldn’t look more skeptical. “Stronger than a nuke and I’m just now hearing about it?” His not-amused gaze darted back and for the between the agents. “This have something to do with those beads you’ve been chasing?”

Patrick dropped his chin into his chest and let out a long sigh. “Go ahead. Might as well tell him what you think. He probably thinks we’re nuts anyway.”

Adnan leaned forward, elbows on knees. “Sir, we not put everything in the report.” He paused and when Cisneros didn’t respond, continued. “Lij Mered was not in Aksum for the nuke.”

“Yes, I know. You told me about his training camp where—”

“It’s more than that, sir. He could have set up his camp anywhere in North Africa. Why Aksum, Ethiopia?” Adnan leaned back. “Are you a religious man, sir?”

“Are we about through here, Agent Fazeph?” Cisneros glanced at his watch.

“Lij Mered has the Ark of the Covenant.” Adnan glanced toward Patrick.

Cisneros turned his attention toward Patrick. “What’s he talking about?”

“I’m afraid it’s true, sir.” Patrick felt as though a giant weight had lifted. They’d been sitting on this information since returning to the States. Their report had glossed over the supernatural events they’d experienced in the chopper leaving Ethiopia. “I don’t really know how to explain it, sir. I was skeptical myself when Adnan told me about Lij Mered downing a jet by pointing at it—”

“Pointing what at it?”

“His finger, sir.”

“So he pointed at a jet and one of his terrorists fires off a shoulder held missile and—”

“No, sir. I know that’s what we implied in the report, but we didn’t actually see any signs of a missile. Adnan insisted it was something other than a missile and had some connection to the beads and the Ark of the Covenant, which Lij Mered had in his possession at the time. I didn’t believe it either. Adnan had been through a lot and I figured he was fatigued, maybe even drugged.”

“I know what I saw.” Adnan directed his comment more to the Director than to Patrick.

“What did you see, son?” Cisneros looked suddenly more interested.

“We were underground…beneath the church of St. Mary of Zion in Aksum. Lij Mered has eight of the original beads, sir; eight of the twenty-four special beads recovered by Lord Baden-Powell in South Africa in 1888. It was his belief that these twenty-four beads were carved at the same time and from the same wood as the Ark and were carried inside along with the tablets of the Ten Commandments.”

“Don’t you and Agent Dartson also have one of these beads?”

“As does Pam Blanchard, sir,” Patrick added.

“Who?” Cisneros scribbled something on a tablet on his desk.

“Agent in training, sir. She was critical in helping Adnan and I in both London and Aksum. She’s nearly through with—”

“Do you have your beads with you? I mean, right here, right now?”

Patrick raised an eyebrow toward his partner and then loosened his tie, pulling out the leather thong that hung about his neck on which was strung his bead.

“May I see it?” Cisneros stretched an upturned hand toward him.

Patrick hesitated. It made no sense—the hold this little talisman had on him. Still, it was not easy for him to pull it over his head and hand it to his boss. He felt a strong sense of betrayal and did not release his hold on the leather thong, even after dropping the bead in the Director’s hand.

“I’ll give it right back.” Cisneros was starting to look annoyed.

“Sorry, sir,” he said, sheepishly releasing his hold on the cord.

Cisneros leaned back in his chair, closely examining the small wooden bead. “So that would make this little thing about what…three thousand years old? Don’t you think it would be showing a little more signs of aging? And what’s this carving on it all about? Do they all look like this?”

“Closer to thirty-five hundred years actually.” Adnan pulled out his own from inside his shirt, but did not volunteer to relinquish it. Cisneros held out his hand and Adnan complied. “We’ve only seen the three up close, and those three do have similar, though not identical, carvings.”

Cisneros passed them back across his desk. Patrick quickly noticed he had the wrong one and exchanged it with Adnan.

“So it makes a difference which one you have?”

Neither agent responded.

“Let’s get back to Lij Mered. So he has seven of these things and—”

“Eight, sir,” the agents said simultaneously.

“Yes…right…eight beads plus the Ark of the Covenant. How do you know it’s the true Ark?”

Adnan jumped in. “Well, it looked to be as described in the Bible and like what’s in the movies.”

“The movies?”

“Yes, sir. You know. Indiana Jones and all that. Spielberg’s a stickler for details and—”

“Get on with it, Agent Fazeph.”

Adnan shifted in his chair, obviously uncomfortable with what he was about to say. “When he touched it, the Ark, the air about him changed, warped somehow. I saw him reduce a man to a pile of ash. But that’s not all of it, sir. I was one of those chosen to carry the Ark above ground. When I touched the wooden shaft cradling the Ark, I felt it too. It’s hard to describe, and the feeling leaves as soon as you lose contact with the Ark. But once you’ve experienced this, you can summon some of it back if you’re with other bead holders.”

Patrick spoke up. “You know the part of our report about the choppers leaving Aksum and coming under an attack? Well, sir, it wasn’t that the attack was a failure. It’s just that Adnan gathered Pam and I together in the chopper and—I don’t know how to say this other than to just say it—we… ah… stopped the attack.”

Cisneros rose out of his chair and paced behind his desk. After a few seconds, he pulled up and crossed his arms over his chest, staring at the two of them. “You sure this Lij Mered guy is still out there and still on some sort of jihad?”

Adnan sat quietly and Patrick shrugged.

“Where’s he headed?”

“I don’t know, sir.” Patrick looked to Adnan for confirmation.

“Think you could find him and put an end to all this?”

“I think we have to, sir.” Patrick looped the thong back around his neck and tucked it inside his shirt.

 Cisneros reclaimed his seat behind his desk. “Keep me informed, will you? And for my sake, keep out of the headlines.” 

The intercom on the director’s desk chimed to life. “The president on line two, sir.”

With a dismissive wave, Cisneros grabbed the receiver and hit the button.

“Mister President…Yes, sir…No, sir…Right away, sir.”

Patrick usually had difficulty reading the director. The man buried his personal emotions deep. Not this time, though. His knuckles tightened on the phone and the color drained from his cheeks. The president was giving him an earful.

Cisneros returned the receiver to its cradle and scooped the remaining file on his desk into his tattered briefcase. “Go on, before I change my mind.”

Patrick and Adnan hurried from the director’s office and out onto the front walkway. It was a short walk from there to where they’d parked.

“Think he bought it?” Adnan shoved his hands deep into his pockets.

“I’m not sure I even buy it. Ark of the Covenant, beads, Zulus, Ethiopian terrorists, Rastafarians, Lij Mered. What’s there to buy?”

“We’re going back though, right?”

“Of course.”

“Pam going with us?”

“What do you think? How’s your hand, by the way?”

Adnan flexed and extended the fingers on his left hand, the one that had sustained the cut extensor tendon to his index finger, compliments of one of Ras Marcus’s henchman. “Never better. Look. The scar’s not even there. Same with my face. No pain at all after the fractured orbit and surgery. No scar there either.” He tilted his head in front of Patrick.

“How about the brand?”

“That one still bothers me.” He worked his left shoulder in a circular fashion. “Wonder why that one didn’t heal like the others.”

“No, that one’s the normal wound. It should still be there and troublesome to you.”

Adnan continued to work the shoulder. The brand of the Gaboon viper seared into his flesh by

 Lij Mered’s goons still bothered him, though he tried to hide it.

 

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Photo credits: Guitar © by Alexandr Mitiuc; Caduceus © by James Steidl; Fleur De Lis © by aves — Fotolia.com