The Stolen Gospels

The Stolen Gospels by Brian Herbert

Book: The Stolen Gospels by Brian Herbert Read Free Book Online
Authors: Brian Herbert
Tags: Fiction, General, Thrillers
in the way of his vision. He adjusted the spectacles again.
    “Admit it!”
    Exasperated, Styx shook his head. Even though he was Culpepper’s favorite and heir apparent, there were times when he wished he had never gotten involved with the top-secret Bureau of Ideology.
    The Minister sat back in his chair, still glaring, his mouth moving rapidly as it discharged invectives like automatic weapons fire, using words that caused Styx to blush in embarrassment. An official in the service of the Lord should not employ such language! For another fifteen minutes Culpepper continued to lambaste his subordinate, finally characterizing him as an incompetent supporter of God and not one of the Devil’s lackeys after all. It was only small comfort to Tertullian.
    At times such as this Styx felt victimized, that perhaps he should perform his specialty on the Minister himself, doing to him what he would do to the female prisoners the ensuing morning. These were bad thoughts, of course, and he felt ashamed for them.
    Forgive me, Lord , he thought, for I am weak.
    * * *
    On the main floor of the Refectory Building, where monks had eaten simple meals for centuries, women in pale gold uniforms and dun-colored robes took their early evening meals at small, separate tables. Some of the long oak dining tables remained from bygone days, but now they were set up just outside the kitchen, and used as buffet counters.
    Councilwoman Bobbi Torrence, a short, heavyset woman, had just sat down alone to eat a huge salad piled high on her plate, with dark greens, black olives, and chunks of feta cheese. From a pocket of her robe she brought out a sword-cross and squeezed it tightly in her hand as she murmured a private prayer: “Thank you, She-God, for the food I am about to enjoy, and for the countless blessings you bestow upon me each day. In the name of holiness, amen.”
    As she took her first bite, her gaze wandered up to the high window panes along the western wall of the great hall, through which snowy mountain peaks and pale blue sky could be seen. Long wooden sticks with metal fittings on the ends leaned against the wall, used for opening the windows on warm summer days, allowing the entrance of breezes that blew across the valley. Months remained until they would be needed again.
    Suddenly a young woman in a white surplice hurried over to a nearby table where two other councilwomen were eating, and whispered in the ear of one, Deborah Marvel. A slender woman in her fifties with short blonde hair, Deborah set down a coffee cup she had been holding and stood up, with her dinner companion.
    Over her head, Deborah lifted a hand, with three of her fingers forming a “W.” It was the sign for an emergency council meeting.
    From all around the Refectory, women in robes rose to their feet and streamed out of the building.
    * * *
    Alone in the passenger compartment of the jet and unable to free herself of the safety restraint, Lori heard Dixie Lou’s voice through the closed door of the forward cabin. The girl picked out some words, enough to know that Dixie Lou was discussing the attack with someone on the radio. She also spoke of switching scramble codes, an apparent security measure to prevent unwanted interception of their communications.
    Lori had no watch, and Dixie Lou would not answer her questions. It might be mid-afternoon, since they had been flying in daylight for hours, but Lori wasn’t sure. After a night that didn’t seem to last very long, they had flown over large expanses of snow and ice, and an ice-choked sea. This suggested to her that they might be on a polar route, which could explain the rapid disappearance of the darkness, and the apparent movement of the sun. Only in the past couple of hours had she seen unfrozen lands and towns beneath the clouds.
    Lori hoped her mother would survive her injuries, but felt a seeping, deadening realization that told her otherwise. Though she had prayed and prayed for her mother’s

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