The Unknown Catacombs (7)

Book 1: Chapter 7
June 8

Unfortunately for me, my marathon vision of my friend Alan was still continuing. (I mean seriously, how much more of this can I be expected to pay attention to?)

Unfortunately for Alan, although it was but a short walk to his own apartment building, I could see that his distress was only growing worse.

“Come off it, man!” He scourged himself in the mirror. “You heard her clear enough. She spoke straight out of Proverbs and I’d be a fool if I didn’t know the REST of the story — For the lips on an adulteress drip honey, but in the end, she is bitter as gall. Her feet go down to death, and her steps lead straight to the grave.”

(Ah, I see that he DID get the quote I was referencing in the last chapter. Well done.)

[Note to Reader: This is Chapter 7 of Book 1 “The Pawns of Prophecy” – if you missed the start of the book, click here return to the main page. ]

“Bah.” He replied, taking up both sides of his self-dialogue. “You read too far into this. It was merely a coincidence. She’s not married and neither are you. Don’t be so afraid to LIVE, man! No, no, tomorrow we’ll see her and make it up to her.”

“Absolutely not. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without being burned?”

“Ugh!” He grasped his head, “What about…Miriam?”

(Oops — I guess that cat’s out of the bag, eh? In case you didn’t know, Miriam is the Hebrew woman who is Alan’s long lost love. It’s really quite a pitiful story – remind me to tell you about it sometime.)

“Ha, that’s always been a lost cause. I haven’t seen her in decades. I don’t owe her anything. I’m free to be with Teri if I so choose, right?”

Thus did he continue arguing with himself, on the one hand, trying to excuse his actions with Teri, and on the other, spouting off the wisdom of the Bible as justification for his abrupt departure. And all the while seemingly trying to assure himself that he had no feelings for Miriam.

At last, as he made his way inside the door of his flat, and there his self-argument ended; for as he looked down at the pile of mail, his eyes immediately fixed themselves on a small piece of airmail that sat atop the others.

(Well at least I am not the only one that she’s torturing).

Ripping it open, I was not surprised to see him read the following…

1492 is coming for you – MM.”

Blood drained from Alan’s face, “My God, she knows.”  

(Poppycock. Miriam doesn’t get revelations like I do, so she would have no way of knowing what’s going on here. Oh, it’s true that she does have another source for her information, but I doubt that Gabriel would be talking to her of Alan’s escapades with an intern).

As if he didn’t have enough drama already, I saw that Alan also now realized something else — he had to leave – immediately.

“Can I risk going to Rome now?” He wondered. “Perhaps Benedict will have to wait?”

Racing to the bathroom, he splashed his face with cool water. Then, looking in the mirror, “My God, what if Benedict is in danger, too?

“Is Teri mixed up in this? Is she a part of some mad plot to assassinate Ma’bus? Or Benedict? Or, God forbid – both of them?”

And, after looking at himself for a long while, “And where does Miriam fit in? Or The Brotherhood?”

Knowing there were no answers to his questions, Alan merely resolved to do that which was in his power, “I know not where Miriam may be now, but one thing I do know – I WILL see Benedict.”

Quickly then, he prepared to leave. Thankfully, this was made all the easier by his advance preparations – for this was not the first time that “Alan Zarus” had been required to abandon his life in a rush. Trying to remain calm, I watched as he flipped a switch in the rear of his closet that triggered a secret access panel which opened to reveal a small hideaway.

(Alan always was into the whole cloak and dagger scene. I actually think he fancied himself as James Bond or something.  After all, Alan was suave, debonair, and into the finer things in life. BUT, and this is a BIG but, Alan never had much of a way with women – as you have just witnessed – and he was quite a pansy when it came to violence, so I think Mr. Bond is pretty safe – he doesn’t have much competition from my friend Alan).

Reaching inside the hideaway, Alan pulled forth a pre-packed leather carryall which was filled with all the essentials he would need to retreat into hiding — until it would be safe for him to resurface elsewhere, under a new identity.

After making his way back out of the apartment, there was then only one more stop that I knew he had to make before he could truly escape the danger that was chasing him (again)…

In my dream world with Alan Zarus, it was now past 3 am; yet I knew that my friend had no choice but to tarry to the downtown sector and visit Casa de Economii si Consemnatiuni – that’s the local CEC Bank, whose impressive palace on Calea Victoriei in Bucharest held Alan’s most prized possession.

Luckily for him, Alan had long ago arranged for Elitist status and thus had been given his own access code which allowed him round-the-clock access to a private, backdoor entrance from which he could gain admittance to the Unknown Catacombs.

Now let’s understand something – Alan could not simply walk up to the back of the CEC, insert a simple key card, and then enter the secret vaults. Nor did he have to walk down some back alley and give a clandestine password to a pair of eyes belonging to an unknown bouncer behind a nondescript door slot. In point of fact, to anyone observing Alan on this night, it did not appear that he was actually attempting to gain access to the CEC at all; for in reality, Alan never approached the bank building, but instead entered into a seemingly normal row house about a block away.

Once inside, he made his way to apartment 1G, inserted his key, and opened the door to a fully furnished, yet ever unoccupied unit. After locking the door, he went immediately to the guest bedroom, opened the closet door and parted a mass of clothes to reveal yet another hidden doorway. This portal did in fact require Alan to enter his access code, and then submit to a fingerprint scan. Once he passed these two tests, he had to speak his name so that the security system could also verify his voice identity. The system then ran one additional check – confirming that no other occupants were presently engaged inside its vaults — and then after successfully completing all this, at last the door opened — revealing a well-lit passageway.

(I told you Alan liked that ‘secret agent’ stuff!)

I watched Alan trudge along a secret walkway that led beneath the streets of Bucharest and down into the CEC’s Catacombs. Just how long the catacombs had been in existence, I couldn’t guess, but I do recall Alan telling me the CEC had been using the former death chambers for more than a century — having converted the various crypts into impenetrable treasure troves for lease to those individuals like himself who could afford to pay the exorbitant rates required to gain the privilege of storing their most secret items in such a place.

Like any of the other magnates who used these unusual deposit boxes, I knew that Alan could only gain access to his own storage location – for only one person was allowed inside the catacombs at a time and while that individual was there, a host of state of the art security measures were in place to ensure that all other crypt-cases were made off limits to the intruder.

And so, after successfully completing a few more security checkpoints, at last Alan arrived at the cache which held his own belongings. Here he paused to catch his breath – for the night was already long, and he was exhausted, yet I’m sure he knew that this was only the beginning of his flight.

Each security cadre in the CEC’s Catacombs had but one and only one key. Not even the bank personnel, at any level, had a copy of the unique skeletons which were required to open the final locks that secured these deposit boxes. Like the others who used these vaults, Alan knew what this meant — if he ever lost his key, whatever he had placed in his hidden tomb would be lost forever.Luckily for him, Alan never lost his key – despite having had it for decades – and he used it now to open his crypt’s portal.

The stone barrier was removed and a muted light was triggered, revealing the lone item inside – a small wooden caisse about one foot long and one-half foot wide. (Sound familiar?) Alan gingerly reached inside and withdrew the smoke-scorched box. Although he had held this small coffin countless times, I saw that Alan was again moved by the magnitude of his most-prized possession.

After more than a few deep breaths, Alan gained the courage required to flip the s-clasp and open the container, “Though they confront us on the Day of Disaster, the Lord will turn our darkness into light!” He prayed, before gasping involuntarily as he gazed at the thin piece of pockmarked iron inside. “Ooohhh….It’s so beautiful.”

 

(Now here I would have to disagree. You’ve seen this thing — does it look beautiful to you? When that murderer came into my home and then met his own untimely demise when he touched my treasure, was that a beautiful sight? No! So what is Alan talking about?)

Moments passed, but Alan quickly remembered why he was here, thus he closed the casket and placed the box into his leather carryall. Then he proceeded to carefully place his crypt-key inside the storage box and shut the tomb’s portal – effectively rendering this now-locked catacomb forever useless.

After which, Alan retraced his steps out of the Catacombs, and eventually re-emerged into Apartment 1G. The portal closed behind him and he moved the closet clothes back into place, before making his way back to the front door of the flat.

Finally ready to get on with his escape into oblivion, Alan opened the apartment door – only to reveal three murderous men waiting for him!

And with that my vision ended – too bad for Alan, but at least I was finally off the hook. 

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