Secrets between Heaven and Earth by Patrick G Moloney.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
instalment thirteen of the Jack Burke crime mysteries.

Submitted: March 07, 2017

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Submitted: March 07, 2017

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To survive in his line of work necessitated certain skills, one of the most basic and important being observational skills. The tall man with the ornate walking cane had honed his observational skills to razor sharpness; he had already identified a number of things about the man who stood before him holding the car door open. He had noticed that even though the man was not big, he was carrying a lot of muscle and all in the right areas. By the way the man had stepped from the high end car, he had deduced that he was more than likely skilled in one or more form of martial arts. The hand that extended to open the door caused his shirt sleeve to ride up, exposing part of the sequence of numbers tattooed on his inner fore arm. This man was a camp survivor; the coldness in the man’s eyes told him that he would kill without any compunction. Finally the slight bulge in his tailored jacket below the left arm pit, told the man with the cane that he was armed. Jack Burke was more curious now than nervous, the collector had asked him to meet with a Rabbi. Now he wondered what kind of Rabbi, travelled in a chauffeur driven limousine, and more importantly what kind of holy man needed to have a trained killer accompany him. Jack climbed into the air conditioned rear of the big car; the Rabbi smiled a cold smile at him and thanked him for agreeing to meet him. Jack took the man’s proffered hand and shook it, for a brief instant as their hands met Jack got a bad feeling from the holy man. The man quickly retracted his hand as if sensed what Jack was feeling, his smile widened exposing a gold tooth but his eyes showed something entirely different. There was much more to the holy man than met the eye, a small voice in his mind told Jack not to get involved.

The dining table had been set up by the glass wall of the penthouse suite; it offered a panoramic view of the city below. The Rabbi sucked loudly on the bones from the rack of lamb; in contrast Jack had hardly touched his food. Something about the other man’s eating habits made his stomach turn; all the while they sat at the table the bodyguard hovered in the background. The sounds the Rabbi made as he sucked on the bones began to sound very loud in Jacks head, that and the glistening fat on his chin was beginning to agitate jack. It was more of an impulse that caused Jack to raise his empty whisky glass and waive it at the body guard, he could see it infuriated the man but he took it and walked to the bar to refill it. The holy man suddenly stopped sucking on the bones as he watched the situation unfold, later when they were alone he gently scolded Jack for teasing the body guard. He told Jack that his body guard was not a man to be trifled with; he waited for Jack’s reaction before adding. “Then again I feel neither are you”? They sat by the marble fireplace as the staff removed the dining table and chairs; the body guard had been dismissed before they had left the table. A waiter arrived with a silver tray, on it a bottle of twelve year old Irish whisky and two Waterford crystal whisky tumblers. They waited in silence as the waiter filled two generous measures, Jack moved his gaze around the opulent room taking in his surroundings. But all the while he was conscious of the holy man’s intense gaze on him; it was beginning to feel like the collector had made a mistake with this guy.

The conversation began in a manner that just made Jack more uncomfortable about the whole thing, the holy man heaping praise on him and his ability to get results. He felt like a school boy being patronised by his teacher, he had to struggle to restrain himself from telling the holy man to get to the fucking point. The Rabbi was nothing if not astute and he soon realised that he was not impressing Jack, he lapsed into a thoughtful silence for a few moments before telling Jack the reason he was here. The Rabbi wanted him to track down an artefact of religious importance; this item had been taken from a place of worship in Poland during the war. Up until recently the last know whereabouts of the artefact was a Nazi facility in the black forest region of Germany, it was just prior to the allies and Russia over running the country. Recently information had come to light that suggested that the item he sought was now in this country, Jack’s first thought was that a person with private bodyguards at his disposal should be capable of tracking down the item himself. The holy man’s features were momentarily lost to sight in a cloud of bluish smoke as he lit up a Cuban cigar, something about the timing made Jack believe that perhaps it was done on purpose. “You come highly recommended by our mutual acquaintance Jack, it also goes without saying you will very richly rewarded for your efforts. I believe that you have responsibilities that will require sufficient funds in the future”. It took all his self-control to stop Jack from launching himself at the Rabbi and grabbing him by the throat, when he managed to regain his composure he reminded himself that the man opposite did not actually mention Mabel’s name. In the end he begrudgingly agreed to take a look at the information, they agreed to meet the following morning again. The body guard dropped Jack outside the office a half an hour later, Jack could have sworn the man sneered at him as he drove away.

The moment he walked into the office a feeling of despair came over him, he had spent very little time here since Mabel had become ill. The collector sounded strange as they spoke on the phone, he seemed very non-committal when Jack inquired about this Rabbi. Jack was taken aback when the collector pleaded with him to take on the case, when Jack pushed him on it all he would say was to trust him. The thing was that for some strange reason Jack did trust the collector, and so against all his better judgement he agreed to take on the case. The dossier the holy man had given him was very detailed up to a point, it contained a number eye witness statements up to and including one that confirmed sight of the item at a secret airstrip in the black forest area. That last sighting was in February 1945 almost elven years ago, the rest of the dossier was made up of what he could only describe as speculation. However it did contain a number of photographs of the people that were thought to be last in possession of the missing artefact, one was a young SS officer and the other was a strikingly good looking blonde lady. The blonde was listed as a professor of religious studies and antiquities and she was attached to a department of the SS, she was a real beauty in a sort of classical way but her eyes were like chips of blue ice as she stared into the camera lens. Jack filled another glass of Crested Ten from the bottle on the desk in front of him; he lit a smoke and contemplated what he had just read. Something was bothering about the dossier; it took him quite a while to figure it out. Well in truth it was two things, first there was no mention of how they came to believe it was in this country. The second was even more puzzling; nowhere in the thick file did it tell him just what it was he was supposed to be looking for. Jack would have to wait until he met the Rabbi the following morning to have the blanks filled in, now he needed some sleep. The long day and the effects of the whisky had caught up on him; he lay on the old couch and was asleep almost immediately. His dreams were a disturbing mesh mash of scenes from his army days in Europe, and of a frightened Mabel trying to tell him something he could not grasp.

Jack left the Rabbi’s penthouse suite not much wiser than he had been when he entered; the holy man had been tight lipped about the source of information regarding the supposed whereabouts of the artefact. When Jack asked exactly what he was searching for, the holy man gave a vague description of a metal case with strange writing and symbols on the outside. What he did leave with was a thick bundle of one hundred dollar bills amounting to five thousand bucks as a down payment, and a map outlining a mountainous region of Pennsylvania where he was to locate a compound that may be the location of this mysterious metal case. By the time he had packed a few necessities and called to the gun store for a box of ammo it was late afternoon, the light had begun to fade as Jack drove out of the city. He had approximately one hundred and fifty miles of highway, after that he was out in the boon docks. The trouble was that in the dark all the minor country roads looked the same, one turn off was pretty much like the other. By ten o’clock that evening Jack was hopelessly lost; he came across a small market town and pulled into the only hotel for the night. He spent another night of fitful sleep. Mabel came to him in his dreams and this time he could just about make out her cryptic message. She whispered to him over and over in a frightened voice, she said “Be careful Jack, death lies on both sides”. It was late morning before he rose, his damaged body ached from the long drive and he felt as if he had not slept a wink. At the breakfast table he spread the map he had been given out in front of him, he tried to make out where he was in relation to the red circle drawn on the map. Jack could not make head or tail of it, and even the circle encompassed a ten mile radius as far as he could make out. It was a while before he realise that the waitress was standing beside him, he turned to find her looking over his shoulder at the map. “I know that place mister; it’s not fifteen miles from where you sit. It’s called deer run peak, but the locals call it Colditz Castle now ever since that German couple built the big walled house up there”. The woman fell silent for a while, then in a conspiratorial whisper she said, “Folks up that neck of the woods maintain that they are devil worshipers”.

The big walled house stood in a small hollow below the road; now that he was here he was at a loss as to how to go about this. In the end he decided he would come back after dark and try to gain entrance to the house, in the meantime he would go to the local village and see if he could get any Intel from the locals. He pulled into the gas station and filled the tank, the old timer behind the counter directed him to the local café. Jack’s luck was in, the dining house served as the local bar as well. A group of ancient men sat in a corner drinking bottled beer and playing cards, a couple of rounds of drink was all it took to get them talking. It seemed each of them had their own conflicting theories of the house in the hills and the couple who lived there. But they were all in agreement that something strange was going on up there, locals hunting by night had reported shadowy figures that had chased them away from the house. Jack had a funny feeling that the night hunting had more to do with illegal distilleries than hunting; he also wondered if the reports of strange goings on had anything to do with them sampling their own merchandise. Jack had a few more beers with the locals, and then he drove back into the hills, he would catch a nap in the car while he waited for cover of darkness. It was not fully dark when he woke to the sound of a car engine; he had parked in off the road where he was concealed by low hanging branches. He watched the big black car climb slowly up the steep incline from the house, the blonde woman from the photograph was behind the wheel and the SS officer sat in the passenger seat. Jack slid lower in the seat, but they passed without even a glance in his direction. He waited until the car was out of sight and he got out, he would not get a chance like this again. He hurried towards the house as fast as his damaged leg would let him, he just might get what he came for and be gone before they got back.

Jack gained entry to the house through the garage, they had not stopped to close the doors when they left, the house was sparsely furnished making the big rooms look even bigger than they were. Nothing on the ground floor or second floor looked out of the ordinary, until he tried a door at the end of the first floor hallway. It looked like a closet door bur a narrow stairwell behind it led to the attic; at the top of this stairwell was a sturdy door with three separate mortice locks. Jack leaned all his weight against the door and it never moved or flexed, the problem now was that he had neither the tools nor time to get those locks open. His choices were extremely limited, the sound of the shots in the confined space was absolutely deafening. But this was the least of his problems by the time he had only one lock left things started to get really strange, try as he may he could not find the strength to shift his aim to the last lock. It felt as if an invisible hand had grabbed his wrist with enormous strength, he found the hand holding the gun being turned back towards his own head. Jacks arm trembled with the exertion of trying to prevent this invisible force from turning his own gun against him, he was losing the battle when her voice sounded clearly in his head “Clear your mind Jack, you cannot bend to this”, he suddenly felt the softness of her hand on his, soft but with incredible strength. When he finally managed to shoot the last lock from the door, a scream of anger echoed through the empty house. The first thing he saw when he entered the room was the big flag pinned to the back wall, it was a black background with two white lightning bolts, Beneath it on a pedestal sat the metal case, the holy man was right when he told him he would recognise it as soon as he saw it. It was of some burnished metal he could not identify, but the symbols and writing were what it made it unique. He had never set eyes on anything like it in his life, when he drew near it felt as if he approached a glazier. He reached out nervously and touched it; Jack was suddenly spiralling through space and time. Visions of indescribable carnage and battle exploded in his head, he was looking down on a vast battle field where magnificent winged warriors did battle. As far as the eye could see lay dead and dying combatants, a sea of blood covered this vast area.

Then blackness and the sensation of falling into a vast abyss, a strange accented voice woke him. It was a woman and she was demanding what the visions had shown him; Jack opened his eyes to see the blonde German woman staring down at him. Slightly behind her stood the SS officer, Jack struggled to get to his feet as he tried to think what he would say. The sound of a single gunshot rang out and the officer’s head exploded like a melon, showering both him and the blonde woman in blood and brain matter. The former SS officer collapsed forward on what had once been his face, behind him the Rabbi stood slightly behind his body guard who held a Luger pistol. Jack attempted to rise from the ground; the blonde woman remained in a kneeling position staring in disbelief at the body of her former comrade. The luger barked again and a fine spray of bloody spittle erupted from her mouth, the woman collapsed across his legs pinning them to the floor. While the carnage took place the Rabbi’s eyes never left the metal case, it was as if he was mesmerised by it. Eventually the holy man moved towards the ornate metal case as if in a trance, he fell to his knees and embraced the case. A look of sheer ecstasy came over his face, but it soon passed as his body began to tremble like a leaf and cries of heart wrenching agony and sheer terror erupted from his mouth. It was unlike anything Jack had ever heard, the gun man turned to see what was happening. It was then Jack shot him in the face, the back of his exploded covering the wall behind him in gore. By the time he got out from under the blonde, the rabbi had stopped screeching and now lay in a foetal position on the floor. It was as if something had sucked the very life force from him, leaving a fragile looking husk of a human body. The blonde woman grasped weakly at Jacks ankle, he knelt beside her and her dying words were “Tell me what you saw when you touched it”.

Jack made his way towards the metal box that so many had died for, “Don’t touch it Jack”. The collectors calm voice came from the doorway, Jack turned to find the collector and two others standing just inside the room. The collectors companions were dressed in some kind of protective suits, he had seen pictures of people dressed like this handling radioactive materials. The two men carried the metal box and placed in the back of what looked like an armoured car, when they had left the collector turned to Jack. “I am sorry for the deception Jack; there were no good guys in this situation. I had to appear to be on the Rabbi’s side, it was imperative that this particular item was located. Now it will be placed beyond the reach of everyone, what the case contains must be kept beyond human reach”. Jack asked the collector just what was inside, for a while he did not think the collector would answer. “When war broke out in heaven Jack, the losers were banished to earth. They brought knowledge with them that should not ever be shared with humans, that case contains a little part of that knowledge”. When jack got back to the small fisherman’s cottage, he spent a lot of sleepless nights pondering the battle scene he saw when he touched the box. It finally came to him; he had been shown the final battle in which the fallen angels had been defeated.

 

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© Copyright 2017 Patrick G Moloney. All rights reserved.

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