Chapter 24 — A Lack Of Intelligence
Joshua waited patiently at the back of the shooting range while Orvis Bowdeen finished some last minute instruction before dismissing his class for the day. The process was a lengthy one since Bowdeen had to speak through an interpreter. From what little Joshua had managed to see, these recruits were still fairly inept in the use of firearms. He hoped their instructor would be able to whip them into shape soon.
After they’d all filed out, Bowdeen packed up a duffel bag of gear and headed toward the exit door. He was unaware that he had a visitor. When he noticed Joshua standing in the vestibule, he gave a start. Joshua found the mercenary’s reaction odd. The man was a combat-hardened veteran with a brawny physique and an off-putting scar that twisted his lips into a perpetual sneer. Not the sort of man one could frighten easily but the sight of Joshua appeared to have done exactly that.
“Hello, Joshua, I forgot you were flying out here today.” Bowdeen covered his initial reaction and stepped forward to shake hands.
The spymaster gave his associate a bland smile. “Nice to see you again, Mr. Bowdeen.”
“How was your trip?”
Joshua shrugged. “Like most trips, tedious. This is the first time I’ve crossed an ocean but in all other respects it was quite similar to flying across the United States.”
“Have you seen much of Germany yet?” The man seemed determined to make small talk.
“The language may be different but the customs of the Fallen appear to be much the same from country to country,” Joshua replied flatly. “I have little interest in seeing more of them. My sole reason for making the trip was to speak to you on a matter of some importance.”
“Right.” Bowdeen cleared his throat uncomfortably at the veiled rebuke. “Let’s go to my shack and talk.”
He led the way out of the shooting range which was located in a wooded area several acres from the central portion of the compound. The two men followed a worn foot path a few hundred yards through the trees to what appeared to be a thatched cottage.
“This used to be a woodcutter’s hut long before the Nephilim came to these parts,” Bowdeen explained. “Since I had to spend a fair chunk of time here and I didn’t want to bunk in the main house, the local brotherhood fitted it up for me. C’mon inside.”
Joshua surveyed the interior of the rustic cottage. It consisted of one room. The ceiling was so low it almost grazed the top of his head. There was a small central table which Bowdeen was obviously using as a desk. The kerosene lantern resting on a stack of papers suggested that the cabin had no electricity. A ladder at the back of the room led to a sleeping loft above.
“My meals get sent over and there’s no indoor plumbing but, believe me, I’ve had to make do with worse than this in my time.” Bowdeen walked over to the tiny window at the far side of the room where several amber bottles were propped against the glass.
“Without a refrigerator,” he explained, “it’s the only way to keep them cold.” He took two bottles from the sill and held one out toward Joshua. “Want a beer?”
The spymaster recoiled at the offer. “No, thank you. I don’t drink alcohol.”
“Suit yourself.” Bowdeen put one of the bottles back. “Since you rub elbows with the Fallen so much, I just figured that you might have picked up some of our ways.” He grinned. “Maybe next time.” He flipped the cap and took a long swig before setting his bottle down on the table.
Joshua found the man’s comment insulting. The spymaster prided himself on his ability to travel among the Fallen without being contaminated by their influence. He never forgot that the pure blood of angels ran through his veins. Lowering himself to adopt the customs of the outer world was inconceivable. Of course, he didn’t allow his face to betray his outrage. He merely smiled.
“Take a seat.” Bowdeen gestured toward a sagging sofa that was drawn up to face the fireplace.
Joshua selected the corner of the couch farthest from the grate. He instinctively preferred to keep to the shadows.
The mercenary walked over to the cold hearth, knelt down and began to build a fire. Over his shoulder, he said, “According to the calendar, it’s almost spring but the air still has a nip to it.” It took him about five minutes to coax the kindling into a blaze. When he was satisfied with the result, he took the seat opposite Joshua and held his hands out to warm them.
“How are your students progressing?” the spymaster asked. He knew his father would want a report.
Bowdeen shrugged. “As well as can be expected for kids who’ve never handled a gun before. We’ll get there. I didn’t think much of you when you started but you turned out to be a decent marksman.”
“Yes, I am,” Joshua agreed softly. “You taught me well.”
“I suppose you’re here because your father wants you to set up the same intelligence network as you did back in the States?”
“Yes,” the young man assented. “I’d like you to provide me with the names of potential candidates from the students you’re training. At least one of them will need to be able to speak English. You know the sort I’m looking for by now.”
“I ought to after all the work we did stateside. I guess I’ve spent more time with you than anybody else in the Nephilim.” He seemed on the point of saying something more but stopped short.
“Mr. Bowdeen?” Joshua prompted. “Is something troubling you?”
The mercenary flinched at the observation. “You might say that. Something’s been weighing on my mind for a while now.” His voice held a note of misgiving.
Joshua didn’t press him. He assumed he could get more information by not appearing to be too eager to obtain it.
Bowdeen gave the spymaster a furtive look and sighed. “I don’t suppose you have any notion what your father intends to do with the undercover groups you’re setting up and all these sharpshooters I’m training?”
Even though Joshua had secretly been asking himself the same question for months, he tried to appear indifferent. “I haven’t any idea. I imagine all these measures are to better protect us from the outside world.”
The mercenary stared into the fire and made no reply.
“Do you have a theory of your own, Mr. Bowdeen?” Joshua hoped that the man did because the Diviner certainly hadn’t been forthcoming about his intentions.
Without shifting his gaze, the mercenary replied, “It seems to me that your father isn’t so much trying to defend what’s his as attack what isn’t.”
“Really?” Joshua didn’t need to feign surprise. He turned slightly in his seat so he could study the soldier’s face.
“Your brotherhood already lives behind ten foot fences. You’ve got surveillance cameras deployed everywhere. You’ve created a fortified position but where’s the enemy?”
“Why, the enemy is all around us, Mr. Bowdeen,” Joshua protested. “The world of the Fallen is a constant threat.”
Bowdeen gave a rueful laugh. “I don’t see anybody storming your gates, son. The rest of the world is doing its best to ignore you but your father is acting like he expects some kind of confrontation.”
“If you don’t poke a sleeping bear in its den, it’s got no reason to come charging at you.”
“What are you suggesting?” The mercenary’s apprehension was infectious. Joshua began to feel it creeping into his own thoughts too.
This time Bowdeen’s eyes met Joshua’s. ‘I think your father has plans to poke the bear.”
“I… uh… I’m afraid I don’t understand.” The spymaster had never considered that Abraham would intentionally antagonize the Fallen. Ever since the days of Jedediah Proctor, their first Diviner, the Nephilim’s mandate had been made clear. Live apart and keep sinless until the return of the Savior. It would be an abomination to deliberately court the attention of the outside world. Nobody knew that better than the Diviner himself.
“You can’t be serious, Mr. Bowdeen!” Joshua couldn’t be sure if he was trying to persuade the mercenary or persuade himself that his father’s actions remained in accord with the Lord’s plan for the angelic brotherhood.
Bowdeen’s scarred lips grimaced. “You mark my words, son. Your Diviner’s got a fierce itch to start something and I don’t want to be around when he gets to scratching.”
THE ARKANA SERIES: Where Alternative History Meets Archaeology Adventure
Volume Four – Riddle Of The Diamond Dove
“From Kindle Nation fave N. S. Wikarski comes the long-awaited fourth book in her fascinating seven-part Arkana archaeology thriller series — with more of the wonderful characters, sly humor, intrigue and mayhem that come together to create the absorbing world of her intricate, fast-paced mysteries.” (Kindle Nation Daily)
Global Treasure Hunt
Where do you hide an ancient relic that has the power to change the course of history? As Cassie Forsythe and her Arkana team discover, you scatter clues to its whereabouts across the entire planet. Five artifacts buried among the rubble of lost civilizations point to the hiding place of a mythical object known as the Sage Stone. Thus far psychic Cassie, bodyguard Erik, and librarian Griffin have succeeded in recovering two of those artifacts.
Cassie and Company find their lives threatened at every turn by agents of a religious cult known as the Blessed Nephilim. The cult’s leader, Abraham Metcalf, wants to exploit the power of the Sage Stone to unleash a catastrophic plague on the world. The quest for the next piece of the puzzle has led both sides to Africa. They must comb an entire continent–their only lead a riddle carved onto a mysterious dove sculpture. Even as the Arkana team struggles to decipher the clue, new dangers hover over their colleagues at home.
Metcalf’s child-bride Hannah has taken refuge at the home of the Arkana’s leader Faye while mercenary Leroy Hunt creeps ever nearer to her hiding place. His search for the girl brings him dangerously close to the secret location of the Arkana’s troves–a collection of pre-patriarchal artifacts which confirm an alternative history of the origins of civilization itself. While Hunt closes in on Hannah, Metcalf’s son Daniel dogs the footsteps of the Arkana field team in order to claim the next artifact before they do. Daniel recruits a clever ally along the way who might be more than a match for the opposing side.
When the forces of the Arkana and the Nephilim converge on a ruined city in a forgotten corner of the dark continent, the shocking outcome is beyond even Cassie’s powers to foresee. The quest for the Sage Stone will veer in an unexpected direction once both sides solve the Riddle Of The Diamond Dove.
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Genre – Alternative History Fiction
Rating – PG
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