The Cauldron by Charles Goodwin Chapter 13

The Founding of Chiron


‘And Deliver Us From Evil....’

‘What!’ roared Heinrich Ravenscroft from behind his office desk. ‘Do you mean to say that you shot dead both Hans Van der Hyde and his colleague?’

Don Ormsby, playing his only wild card, remained cool under the torrid onslaught. At least that is, on the surface.

His life hung precariously in the balance.

‘As I’ve tried to explain, that crawling rat Hans was double crossing both of us, Mr. Ravenscroft. I had no choice. He lied to me. He said that Rebecca Childs had not seen Paul again....’

Heinrich leapt to his feet, almost vaulted around his desk and bored down at Don. ‘Then where the hell is the Childs woman now?’ he demanded, leaning over and bellowing into Don’s ear at close range.

Don remained seated and forced himself to look into the beetroot face of his tyrannical employer. ‘That’s the point,’ he stuttered, ‘You ordered me to get rid of her and I did. At this precise moment, she’s on a plane half way to Australia. Hans lied because he wanted Rebecca as his mistress.’

Heinrich glared at Paul with the inferno of Dante. ‘If you are lying to me, I will kill you myself with my bare hands.’

‘But why would I lie to you?’ pleaded Don. ‘I covered my tracks efficiently. I made it appear like Hans and Hilda shot each other in one of their heated arguments. I virtually kidnapped Rebecca and her friend at gunpoint and escorted them direct to the plane myself.’

Don paused and breathed heavily to regain his composure.

‘Go on. I’m listening.’ Heinrich straightened upright and paced the office floor behind Don’s back.
Don shuddered, and answered without turning to face Heinrich. ‘They connected at Heathrow. I’ve already checked to make sure they were on the plane.’

‘And?’ snapped the stabbing voice from behind.

‘Look. Rebecca intended flying to Australia anyway to join some commune or ashram. I had the situation well in hand. If Hans hadn’t let his prick get in the way of his sadistic brain, this matter wouldn’t have spun out of control.’

‘So why would you admit to killing Hans? The reports I received from Amsterdam at 9.30 this morning stated they killed each other.’ Heinrich spoke in a slightly more conciliatory manner.
Don sensed he was gaining a reprieve.

‘I’m not saying this out of flattery, Mr Ravenscroft, but I wouldn’t insult your intelligence. I’d be insane to expect you to swallow the fabrication that they conveniently killed each other. You instinctively would have suspected something was amiss. I’d have found myself undergoing a polygraph test, or worse.’

‘You will still have to. Nergal will insist on it,’ muttered Heinrich under his breath. He returned to his padded swivel chair. ‘I’ll check later with London Security and confirm Rebecca made the flight. And for your sake I hope she is on board.’

‘Rebecca and her flat mate are both on board, I assure you.’ Don’s heartbeat slowed to almost normal. He only now noticed his palms clammy with perspiration.

Heinrich rested his elbows on the desk and buried his tense balding head in his hands. His thoughts were centred on how Marduk would react to the news. But he accepted Don’s version of events. He also remembered that Paul had specifically asked for Don to remain on the payroll.
Heinrich finally sat up and forced a strained smile. ‘It seems I have grossly underestimated your talents. And obviously so did the traitor Hans. He deservedly paid with his life for his oafish blundering.’ Heinrich paused and reflected. ‘Yes, what you have accomplished, certainly took guts. And a quick thinking mind! I admire that. And telling me the truth instead of making a run for it, highlights your intelligence.’

‘Thank you for your confidence in me,’ replied Don, displaying utter relief. ‘I was forced into a snap decision. If Hans had held Rebecca as a forced prostitute in Amsterdam, and Paul had found out, he would have gone berserk. At least this way she deserted Paul virtually on her own free will.’

‘I agree with that,’ interrupted Heinrich, ‘It could have become messy. But Paul must only be told that she ran off to some commune in Australia. Don’t mention Hans Van der Hyde to him.’
Then he added scornfully, ‘And I’ll have to make sure she never leaves Australia alive.’

Heinrich glanced at his watch. ‘It’s nearly one o’clock. I expected you here two hours ago. There’s still another important matter I wish to discuss.’

‘I tried to be here earlier. But I came by car from the airport rather than the chopper. Then I was held up for forty minutes at a road block a few kilometres down the highway.’

‘A roadblock. What for?’ asked Heinrich with sudden interest.

‘It wasn’t the Peace Keepers. Some over zealous Austrian police were investigating a murder. A young woman’s naked body was found dumped under some trees near the road. Her head and pubic hair were shaved and her heart apparently had been almost ritually gauged out.’

Heinrich frowned and cussed under his breath.

‘What’s wrong. Has the police rung here already about the murder?’ probed Don.

‘No, why do you ask? Why should they?’

‘When I showed the officer in charge my security clearance, he told me the victim used to work here. She was part of the junior scientific staff. Her contract had apparently expired and was due to leave!’ Don paused and looked hesitant.

‘There is something else on your mind. Out with it!’ demanded Heinrich.

‘Well it’s strange. The local police were tipped of that the body was dumped. It’s as if, who ever dumped it, wanted the corpse found.’

‘I’m not sure what you are driving at’

‘There’s one other point. It may be my over analytical mind, but the murder weapon, a jewelled dagger, was found next to the body. Complete with fingerprints.’


‘Don’t you see? It smacks of a frame up,’ replied Don inquisitively, attempting to judge Heinrich’s reaction. ‘The police haven’t the authority to enter the castle, so they are questioning the occupants of the incoming and outgoing vehicles.’

Don realised that the Syndicate didn’t need to frame anybody. Opposition simply disappeared.

‘Heinrich’s voice became gravenous. ‘That’s interference not overzealousness. I’ll make some enquiries. If necessary the Police investigation will be closed. Do not mention this to anyone else, especially Paul.’

Don shook his head. ‘No, I wouldn’t even consider telling anyone. I only mentioned it to you, in case the incident hadn’t been brought to your attention.’

‘You were correct in telling me,’ agreed Heinrich grudgingly, ‘Internal security will investigate the case instead. They can discreetly run a check on the fingerprints of everyone employed here. We don’t want any minor incidents affecting the morale of the staff. The work being carried out here is far too important to jeopardise.’

‘I understand.’

‘Good, then let’s discuss more positive topics.’ Heinrich’s expression though fatigued turned almost pleasant. ‘I summoned you here because Paul requested that you be appointed to the position of his chief adviser. He mumbled something about, ‘the devil you know, as against the devil you don’t.’

Don smiled. ‘Sounds like one of Paul’s compliments.’

‘This of cause means promotion and a healthy hike in salary for you.’

‘I would consider the appointment an honour Mr. Ravenscroft.’

Ignoring Don’s response, Heinrich continued. ‘Paul will become the Public Ambassador for the new World Council. We are currently preparing him for that position. You are to lead his personal staff and be responsible for his security arrangements.’

‘Will I still report to you, as before?’

‘Yes and no. Paul will also be a Syndicate member. Therefore you will no longer work for me personally, but will be employed by the World Council.’

‘Ah, I see.’

‘However, I have accepted the position of head director of the project here at HQ. So in that regard, I am still your superior. I would like to think we might come to a suitable understanding. After all, Paul is my son and his well being is of the utmost concern to me.’

‘I understand completely,’ replied Don mindfully.

‘Excellent. I have to admit I thought you were a glorified pencil pusher. But in view of your execution of Hans and his offsider, I now feel more confident that you are the correct person to fill the position.’ Heinrich’s eyes narrowed and added, ‘There may well be other occasions you may be called upon to compromise troublesome individuals.’

Don felt like screaming in protest. He wanted to insist that he wasn’t an assassin - that he killed Hans in self-defence and to save Rebecca’s life. Instead he remained conspicuously silent.

‘Potential threats to Paul may also arise from within the Syndicate itself. So be on guard at all times. Trust absolutely no one. Remember, with humans, there are no blacks or whites, merely an infinite number of varying shades of greys.’

Merely an infinite number of varying shades of grey, Don repeated the words in his mind. Although he professed no particular interest in spirituality or the occult, Don believed that all people were a composite of degrees of goodness and evil. Both the beastly nature and the self sacrificing hero lies dormant in each of us, awaiting the right circumstances to surface.

‘Right then, so when and where do I start?’ he asked feigning enthusiasm.

‘I’ll arrange for someone to direct you to your accommodation and to Paul’s offices. Your office suite is on the same floor as his.’ Heinrich reached into his desk drawer. ‘You can take these keys and computer codes with you. One set is your’s and the other is Paul’s.’

‘Is Paul in his office?’ asked Don as he placed the two packages in his brief case.

‘Yes, as far as I know,’ answered Heinrich jaded. ‘He had an appointment with Bashar.’

‘Bashar! You mean the commodity dealer who attended the meeting? So he was in Amsterdam to check Paul out after all.’

‘Yes the same Bashar and he’s no commodity dealer. Keep an eye on him for me.’

‘You don’t trust Bashar?’

‘I don’t trust anyone. Especially Bashar,’ grumbled Heinrich. ‘Neither am I in favour of Bashar instructing Paul. He has an annoying tendency to eccentricity. And most of the time, it’s too damn difficult to tell what he’s thinking.’

‘Then may I ask who appointed Bashar?’

‘No you may not. That information is confidential,’ fired Heinrich angrily. ‘Just let me know, if he seems to be teaching Paul anything that may be detrimental to the project.’

‘I understand,’ replied Don, bent on retreating from Heinrich’s distrusting wrath.

Heinrich sighed, then yawned. ‘As you can see, I didn’t get much sleep last night. Spend a couple of days feeling your way around HQ. A young scientist named Sonia over at Paul’s office will answer most of your queries.’

Don seized the opportunity and jumped to his feet and withdrew to the door. ‘Thank you Mr. Ravenscroft. I won’t take up any more of your valuable time.’

Heinrich grunted an acknowledgment. ‘And you can tell Paul that I’ve returned and that I’ll try to visit both of you in his office tomorrow at 11 am. He’ll find his schedule and duties are all with Nergal.’


Heinrich paused and quivered his eyebrow as if he was about to disclose a sordid family secret.

Don waited.

‘Nergal is a complex computer program. At first Nergal seems like a bazaar multi dimensional children’s game.’ Heinrich sniggered and added, ‘But you especially, will find Nergal fascinating and revealing - once you begin to understand Nergal’s deadly complexities.’

‘Sounds formidable. I love a challenge.’

Heinrich coughed a demented laugh. ‘The ultimate challenge. The fact you sacrificed Hans’ life will advance you somewhat into the labyrinth!’

‘Yes I see, thank you.’

‘What on earth did he mean by that,’ murmured Don to himself as he strode briskly to the lifts.

Heinrich poured a double cognac and spoke out loud. He scowled at his computer. ‘The diabolical labyrinth of no return.’ He felt drained and sorry for himself. His head pounded with a tension headache. ‘Marduk puts too many responsibilities on my ageing shoulders,’ he grumbled. ‘Life is so damn complicated. Sometimes it feels that the burdens and obligations of power aren’t worth the struggle.’

‘Mr. Ravenscroft, there is someone here at reception who would like to see you. He claims he is ‘the devil you know rather than the devil you don’t.’

‘Don Ormsby. Thank God! Tell him I’ll be right out,’ cried Paul excitedly. He dropped the phone, leapt to his feet and sprinted to the reception.

‘Don, I never thought I would be so pleased to see you.’ Paul placed his arm around Don’s shoulders. ‘Come! My office is right this way. What’s happened to Rebecca?’

‘Paul, I think perhaps we should sit down and talk,’ replied Don grimly.

Paul nervously led Don into his office. Don sat down and Paul leaned uncomfortably against the desk. ‘Now tell me. Is Rebecca all right? What’s wrong?’

Don eyed Paul with compassion. ‘Rebecca’s gone Paul.’


‘She has left Amsterdam for Australia.’

Paul shook his head in disbelief. ‘Australia? What do you mean? What ever for?’ he protested. His heart thudded to his ankles.

‘There is some new age guru running a commune in New South Wales. Apparently she wanted to tell you herself. She went to the Amstel but you had checked out.’

Paul, dazed, crashed into his office chair. ‘I don’t believe it Don. We loved each other. Didn’t she even leave a note?’

Paul’s heart wrenching sadness reacted with Don. He had to assume the office would be bugged. Too early - too dangerous. He had no choice but to continue the lie.

‘There is no note Paul. I’m so sorry, I really am.’ His voice croaked in sympathy.

Paul fought to retain some composure. Tears welled in his eyes. ‘I don’t understand. I mean she didn’t even give me a chance....’

‘Perhaps Rebecca thought, that if she stayed, she may get in the way of your career. Maybe she chose to leave, because she loved you,’ comforted Don.

‘That’s exactly what angers me about women,’ sobbed Paul, releasing his hostility. ‘They are either too bloody emotional or too damn practical. ‘Rebecca and I should have worked this out together.’

Don attempted to disguise his discomfort. He felt the proverbial bastard even though in reality, he’d saved Rebecca’s life. ‘You know Paul, they say that with the grieving process, after the loss, it is normal to feel angry or guilty before any healing can take place.’

Paul misinterpreted Don’s uneasiness. He wiped the tears from his eyes. ‘Don, you are not double-crossing me are you? You weren’t ordered by my father to scare Rebecca off, by any chance?’

‘But that’s preposterous!’ The questions caught Don off balance. He glanced suspiciously around the room, leaned forward and risked whispering, ‘Don’t be too upset. It may not be over.
Rebecca may yet be writing to you.’

‘But....’ Paul tried to answer. Don held his hand lightly over Paul’s mouth and continued. ‘Be careful what you say about your father. This office is more than likely bugged.’

Paul nodded a silent protest.

Sonia strained in vain at the door to overhear the covert whispering. The news about Rebecca had sent a stimulating excitement through her abdomen. She crept away from the door. Waited a few moments and returned with flair and sensual gusto.

‘Oh, I’m sorry to barge in on you. I didn’t know you had a visitor.’

‘No, please come in,’ begged Paul, ‘I take it you’ve finally finished your moving.’ Sonia’s breezy face beamed rays of needed warmth into Paul’s heart.

Don stood up. Sonia curtsied.

‘Sonia, I would like you to meet Don. Don will be my, for want of a better title, chief of staff,’ chided Paul somewhat cynically.

‘And Don, you’ll no doubt be pleased to hear that Sonia has been assigned to this office to take ‘special’ care of me.’

‘I’m pleased to meet you Sonia,’ said Don.

Oh, I bet you are, thought Sonia, taking an instant jealous dislike to Don. ‘And I am pleased to meet you too, sir,’ she responded reservedly.

Don proffered a polite smile and turned to Paul. ‘I’m supposed to be checking out my accommodation and checking into my office. However, I thought I should call in here first to see you.’

He took out the package from his briefcase.

‘Your father asked me to inform you that he’ll meet with both of us here in your office at 11 am tomorrow. He gave me these keys and security computer codes to pass on to you.’

Sonia accepted the package and placed it on the desk.

‘I’ll catch up with you both, later perhaps,’ said Don as he turned to make a hasty exit.

‘Yes do that. I’ll look forward to continuing our conversation,’ replied Paul.

Sonia gazed at Paul with tender endearment. ‘Hey, are you ok?’ she carolled ‘There is something wrong I know it.’ She tip toed around to the back of Paul and began to massage his shoulders.
‘Now tell me, what is the matter?’

‘There isn’t anything you can help me with,’ sulked Paul without asking Sonia to stop her gentle stimulation.

‘It’s Rebecca isn’t it?’

‘Yes it is. Is it that obvious?’

‘She’s ran out on you.’

‘It seems that way.’

‘Did Don tell you this?’

‘Yes, as a matter of fact he did. But what’s it to you?’ Defended Paul, moving Sonia’s hands away.

‘Well, as a matter of fact I happen to care about you. And I don’t like seeing you hurting like this.’

‘So why mention Don?’ Paul gazed up into Sonia’s tempting eyes.

‘Paul, I wouldn’t trust Don as far I could throw him. The man is a weasel. I didn’t expect your ‘chief of staff’ to be as strong and as intelligent as you. But I expected better than a crawling lap dog!’

‘God, Sonia you can be vicious.’

‘Yes sir. But I’m practical. Don will be nothing more than your father’s poodle. He’ll sell you out the minute it suits him.’

‘Then I’m completely alone,’ countered Paul. His voice once again sounding despondent.

‘But you have me Paul.’

‘You! You have to be joking. I saw the way you jumped into Bashar’s arms. You were the one that acted like a trained poodle.’

‘Oh... I see...’ smarted Sonia defiantly. ‘We are back on to that. You are right of course. I forgot to receive your permission first, didn’t I?’

‘Sonia, now you are being sarcastic. You can run after every pair of pants you meet as far as I’m concerned. But stop telling me how much you care and how special I am. I wouldn’t want a woman who is that damn insensitive towards her man!’

Sonia remained tight lipped. Her passion and pride ignited into an exquisite fury. She sauntered to the door, nose held high, her eyes filmed with ice.

Paul felt a sensual attraction to her anger. He rose to his feet. ‘Where the heck do you think you are going?’

She turned, hesitated, then replied, ‘No wonder Rebecca walked out on you. You are so clever. You’ve managed losing two women now in just ... how many? - Let me see. Oh yes - just four days. I hope you are satisfied sir.’

A sense of lonely panic grabbed Paul. He didn’t want Sonia to leave. He only meant to express his annoyance, so that she might understand his feelings. He cried out.
‘Sonia, wait ...I.,’ he stumbled, collapsing into his office chair.

‘Yes Sir. You wished to say something?’

‘I don’t want you to go. Please come back.’

‘Do you mean that, Paul?’ she asked with black widowed entrapment.

‘I can’t cope with being alone, Sonia.’

Sonia meditatively closed the door and tip toed over and stood along side Paul. She rested his head firmly against her warm breasts. She spoke with talented softness. ‘Paul I promise you, unless you order me out of your life, I will never leave you alone, ever.’ Sonia’s caressing fingers ran through Paul’s hair. ‘I’ve fallen in love with you darling.’

Paul clung to the tender warmth, like an orphaned child cuddling his only teddy.

‘God the mess I’ve managed to get myself into,’ he murmured.

‘Be patient Paul... And hey, cheer up. Be happy.’ Sonia released her protective embrace.
‘Come on darling. Snap out of feeling so sorry for yourself. How about we check Nergal?’

Paul grumbled and switched on the computer. Sonia tore open the package and read aloud the security code. Paul tapped the keys.

Words in plain 36 point Ariel appeared.

‘Place your left palm into the scanner. Please do not remove until advised.’

Paul obeyed without hesitation.

Immediately the screen erupted into a colourful graphic slide presentation. A cocktail of mid evil misty castles, knights on horseback, full bosomed damsels, fiery dragons and images of ancient gods, flashed before Paul in rapid succession.

‘It’s like a child’s picture book,’ exclaimed Paul. ‘They can’t be serious.’

The speakers activated. ‘Good afternoon Paul. Welcome. My name is Nergal. How are you today.’ The voice sounded automated, yet serenely pleasant.

‘Now what do I do?’

‘Answer Nergal.’

‘I want to bypass this crap. How do I get into the main menu.’

‘You can’t Paul....’

‘For the second and last time. Good afternoon Paul. Welcome. My name is Nergal. How are you today.’ The voice now sounded more authoritative.

‘Quick, you must answer. If you don’t, Nergal will close down on you for two days as a punishment.’

Paul scoffed and quickly keyed the response. ‘Good afternoon Nergal. I feel fine.’

An eerie sound, like an ill wind blowing through a graveyard, emitted from the speakers. The screen showed a hooded man being led up the steps of a scaffold. A noose was placed around his neck. The trap door was released. The necked snapped with a crack. The body dropped and hung limp.

‘Hell what was all that about?’ shuddered Paul offended.

‘Nergal asked you how you felt and you lied Paul.’

‘I was only being polite.’

‘I think he’s calculated that already. Apologise, and try to explain how you feel,’ she said giggling.
‘Sonia this is patently ridiculous.’

Paul tapped resentfully at the keys.

‘Correction. I feel lost. I feel confused. And I’m angry at this damn computer system.’

‘Thank you. Answer accepted. Your feelings are understandable in the circumstances. Nergal is at your service always. You may now take your hand out of the scanner.’

Paul smiled at Sonia and winked. ‘Ah, that’s better. I seem to be getting somewhere. Let’s see what Nergal is made of.’

‘What is the extent of your information relating to the World Government project?’ petitioned Paul conceitedly.

The graphics altered. Trumpets heralded through the speakers. The heading ‘Major Arcana Tarot Selection’ appeared.

A vibrant picture of a youthful hooded court jester holding a staff and a bundle, with a dog leaping behind, came mockingly to the screen. The youth appeared to be contemplating stepping off an imposing precipice, into the unknown, from mountaintops of green and purple.

‘You’ve drawn The Fool from the Tarot deck,’ declared Sonia. ‘Press F6 for the commentary.’

Paul unimpressed, pressed F6

The Fool

The fool’s number is zero. Dionysus, ‘the Fool’ is destined to subjugate the forces of darkness before achieving his goal of conquering death and triumphantly being reborn.
Dionysus, the God of madness and ecstasy was born from the union of the God Zeus and Dementer, the earth mother. Zeus’ jealous wife Hera, and the older Gods, the Titans, are the Fool’s eternal enemies. The fool descended from the celestial realms, and is now ready to begin his mystical journey. The dog represents the fool’s fears. Expect the unexpected. Do not look back.

‘I haven’t a clue what it all means,’ retorted Paul. ‘Now what?’

‘Let me print the commentary out. I’m certain the words have deep symbolic meaning,’ insisted Sonia excitedly. She clicked the mouse on ‘file’ and clicked ‘print’.

‘I remember reading in the Tarot, the Fool advances without premeditated thought, unaware of the pitfalls and dangers that lie ahead.’

‘That sounds like me,’ he enthused, but then asked soberly, ‘Are you saying that Nergal is warning me?’

‘Nergal plays games, like a chess master. You’ll soon get used to it.’ Sonia pulled a chair over and sat down next to Paul. ‘But please learn to take him seriously,’ she pleaded.

‘Sonia, listen to what you are saying. It’s just a stupid computer program. Garbage in equals garbage out, and all that.’

‘No, you are so wrong Paul,’ warned Sonia, ‘This scanner has incredibly sophisticated sensors, developed here at the castle. The information recorded by the sensors assists in building a personality file in Nergal - about the way you think, feel, and in all probability, will act.’

‘What relevant information could the sensors possibly receive from a hand?’ asked Paul sceptically.

‘I’m not sure exactly how it works. But I do know the scanner records the slightest temperature change, moisture differentials, your pulse and the variations in the body’s subtle energy field.’

‘Are you referring to the meridian lines used in acupuncture treatments?’

‘Yes, they are also described in reflexology and shiatsu,’ replied Sonia. ‘The hands, like the feet and ears have precise points that correspond to each of the body’s organs, glands and chakras. Stimulation of these points alleviates pain and can accelerate the healing process.’

Paul sniggered. ‘Except with Nergal the scanner records the delicate changes in the body’s energy grid system for more sinister reasons.’

‘You’re starting to get the picture.’

‘Nergal seams to operate like a sophisticated lie detector test.’

‘Yes, I suppose that’s where the principle originated,’ agreed Sonia thoughtfully. ‘Nergal asks hundreds of test questions over a lengthy period. They range from the mundane to the emotionally embarrassing. The computed information ultimately compounds into a complete psychological profile.’

‘It sounds to me, that all the known psychological tests used in psychology since Freud have been combined and programmed into the software,’ offered Paul.

‘Exactly, and brilliantly merged with eastern knowledge and mysticism. Nergal cunningly ‘trains’ you with rewards and punishments at every step.’ Sonia grinned. ‘Remember, a few minutes ago, how he forced you to tell the truth?’

Paul nodded.

Sonia’s smile was short lived. She added with a dire note of revulsion. ‘With Nergal, as with the whole project, you will come to realise there is no going backwards. There is no way out!’

‘I’m not sure what you mean.’

‘Picture an inverted pyramid.’ Sonia drew a triangle with point down, with her two index fingers. ‘You enter into the computer labyrinth from any one of the myriad entry positions at the top, via your qualifications or field of expertise. Nergal then begins the questions and ascertains the level that one is suited for. The promotion to each new descending level is activated by simple rituals and further commitments of secrecy.’

‘I think I’m beginning to understand,’ remarked Paul thoughtfully. ‘So Nergal is also an awesome complex security system.’

‘Absolutely! Nergal always asks me playfully each morning ‘Sonia have you been a good girl for Nergal. If I dared lie or be even ambiguous in my response, the questions would come thick and fast til Nergal is satisfied.’

‘And what if he isn’t satisfied?’

Sonia gaped at Paul and shuddered. ‘Well security is notified and..... well, at my level, I suspect there is no second chance!’ She paused. ‘As I said Paul, learn to take Nergal seriously.’

‘And I imagine that if you don’t check with Nergal in the morning....’

‘Security is notified,’ interrupted Sonia and then elucidated, ‘And not only in the mornings. If a security breach is suspected, whole sections are often asked to clear with Nergal, in case of possible complicity.

Paul frowned distastefully at the innocent looking computer screen. His immediate thoughts centred on forewarning Don. An icy tremble slithered up his spine.

He grimaced at Sonia. ‘Thanks for warning me. Although I personally, have nothing to hide. The powers that be probably know more about me than I know about myself.’

Sonia shook her head in exasperation. Nergal is right, she thought, Paul you are the archetypal naive and innocent Fool. God help you. You are going to need it!

Paul clicked ‘exit’ and turned off the computer. ‘If I’m in for a personal interrogation, perhaps I’ll give Nergal a miss for today.’

The rehearsed smile returned to Sonia’s cheeks. ‘What unsettles me the most is Nergal’s command of the occult and metaphysical mysteries. As crazy as it may sound, it’s as if he knows our past lives and is reprogramming our destinies.’

‘Then someone who understands the occult arts must be programming Nergal.’

‘Yes, I suppose you are right.’ Sonia hesitated as if she wanted to add something.

‘Say it, Sonia. What were you going to say?’

‘Look I know it’s not logical. Nergal at times seems to be linked to other dimensions of intelligence. I’m not implying for a moment that we have finally developed a computer to duplicate the consciousness of the human brain...’

‘Then what are you alluding to?’ asked Paul.

‘Well both Carl Jung and the eastern esoteric teachings, both describe the principle of the collective conscious or the hall of records. A dimension where all knowledge and intelligence is stored and from where inspirational thought or intuitive flashes derive.’ Sonia paused and thought hard.

And Paul felt attracted to her free soaring spirit.

She continued. ‘Nergal seems to have the ability to tune in to the vibrations and frequencies of the collective conscious and correlate the impulses into data.’

‘Like an enlightened occult master is able to do,’ responded Paul.

‘Absolutely. Or like a television or radio receiver that receives transmitted vibrations which we are unable to perceive through our five senses.’

‘Sounds like science fiction.’

‘Oh, you are probably right. But here at the castle nothing surprises me any more. The quantum leaps in technology being developed here seem boundless.’

Paul did not reply. Instead they both gazed deeply, wantonly. Past the lonely eyes of the other to the depths where spirits merge. Winged thoughts and unclear desires settled temporarily without expression or satisfaction.

Introspective silence.


‘Yes Paul.’

‘It’s been another long day. Could you care for a bite to eat?’

Sonia’s face lit up and gleamed excitement. ‘The staff restaurant here at the castle has incredible food and wonderful wines.’

‘Sounds good.’

‘Then sir, what on earth are we waiting for?’

Donald Ormsby decided not to unpack. Instead he excitedly rushed back to his own office and booted up the computer. He placed his hand into the scanner as requested and coded in the required numbers.

His curiosity purred for answers.

The graphics display showed an American style western. A gory high noon stand off and shoot out ending with the sheriff and his deputies being gunned down.

‘Good afternoon Don. Welcome. My name is Nergal. How are you today?’

Don tapped the keys and chuckled. ‘A little tired thanks, Nergal.’

‘Please enter the following information to obtain security clearance. Leave your hand within the scanner.’

‘Name... date of birth... sex... nationality... marital status... Physical details; height... weight...’
Don tapped in the answers. He soon noticed Nergal’s pattern of suddenly interspacing direct questions with the generalised questions.

‘Do you have black hair?’ ‘Do you have brown hair?’

Don keyed in the answers as requested. He noticed also the sudden questions designed to promote an emotional response.

‘Are you homosexual?’

‘Hell no.’ Don tapped with anger.

The computer’s hard drive crackled. The scanner’s sensors recording the minutest of variations.
‘Repeat question. Are you homosexual?’

‘Correction. I had an infatuation many years ago at college. Felt guilty ever since.’ Don was red faced.

‘Answer accepted, thank you.’

Nergal’s mundane questions continued, then, ‘Do you know Rebecca Childs?’


‘Is Rebecca Childs still alive?’


‘Have you had sex with her?’

‘No, of course not.’ What a stupid question, thought Don.

Nergal continued with the generalised questions. Suddenly...

‘Who are you employed by?’

‘As from today, the Syndicate. Previously Heinrich Ravenscroft.’

‘Who else?’

‘No one else,’ he answered nervously.

Nergal automatically exported an alarm to the staff in the security section.

The hard disk whirled intimidatingly.

‘Answer accepted thank you.’

‘Whew, that was close,’ mumbled Don to himself, wishing he had stayed in his rooms.

‘Do you know Paul Ravenscroft?’

‘Of course.’

‘Is that his real name?’

Don was taken aback by the suddenness of the question. He felt his hands tremble and rise in temperature.

‘As far as I know, yes!’

The hard disk crackled.

‘Answer accepted thank you,’ lied Nergal.

‘Have you killed anyone before?’

‘Yes, two people.’

‘Do you work for the CIA?’

‘I used to.’

‘Do you still?’


‘Have you made contact with any CIA agents in the last six months.’


‘Please confirm.’

‘No.’ Don began to perspire.

‘Was your reply ‘No’?’


‘Do you prefer chocolate to coke a cola?’

‘No. I mean yes!’ ‘This is ridiculous,’ he grumbled. And then after a series of standard questions,
‘Did Rebecca Childs ask you to pass any information on to Paul.’?

Don froze for a mere six seconds. The sensors went into overload.

‘Repeat,’ Nergal’s robotic voice increased in volume, ‘Did Rebecca Childs ask you to pass any information on to Paul?’


‘Do you intend telling Paul this information?’

‘I said ‘No’ to the previous question. So there is nothing to tell,’ tapped Don. His blood pressure rose and thumped at his temples.

‘I apologise. Answer is now accepted thank you.’

‘What are three of your favourite foods?’

‘Pasta, hamburgers and Thai food.’

‘Do you prefer brandy or scotch?’


‘Did you tell the complete truth to Heinrich Ravenscroft relating to the death of Hans and Helga?

‘Donald Ormsby, do you wish to know your score so far?’

Don’s fingers trembled as he hit the three keys. ‘Y..e..s..’

An eerie sound, like a ill wind blowing through a graveyard, emitted from the speakers. The screen showed a hooded man being led up a scaffold. A noose was placed around his neck. The trap door was released. Don gulped as the neck snapped. The body dropped and hung limp.

‘Are you sure you don’t wish to alter your answers?’

Don hesitated. His finger pressed ‘N’ then ‘O’. The hard disk crackled.

‘Don, may I ask you one more question?’

Don couldn’t answer. His eyes were now iced to the screen. The graphics displayed unending rows of screaming hysterical people lined up against a splattered wall. Thunderous machine gun fire ripped into their minced bodies.

Nergal’s voice echoed hauntingly over the paralysing terror. ‘Is there any particular way you would prefer to be executed?’

Don’s senses deadened like rigor mortis. He clenched his eyes locked shut. The office door crashed open.

The two black uniformed guards aimed their machine guns at Don. One shrieked piercingly.
‘You are to come with us, now!’

‘Heinrich, please respond.’

Heinrich Ravenscroft awoke from an uncomfortable nap at his desk. He glared numbly at the flashing computer screen.

‘Initiation test relating to ‘Dungeons of Despair.’

He hammered F6 for the commentary and placed his hand into the scanner. The sensors immediately activated and began encoding.

‘Congratulations Heinrich. At 9.30 PM this evening, you will be granted privileged access to the experimental sections of the lower dungeons. The interrogation of Donald Ormsby will, by then have been completed.

Your initiation will commence at 9.45PM.’

Heinrich’s complexion drained ghost white. He jerked his hand out of the scanner. The lower dungeons were Marduk’s personal domain. Nergal had tapped into Heinrich’s most dreaded fear.

His fingers trembled as he poured another double cognac.

‘Oh shit,’ he cursed, his breath wheezing. ‘It’s one thing having to market snakeskins. It’s quite another, to be thrown into a nightmarish pit of slithering venomous snakes.’




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