Sunday, February 12, 2012


SOL OCCAXUS (Sunset) Monday, 19 September, 2011

CREPUSCULUM (Evening Twilight)

I. Friday, 23 September, 2011
II. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
III. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
IV. Sunday, 16 October, 2011

VESPER (Evening Dusk)

I. Sunday, 23 October, 2011
II. Sunday, 30 October, 2011
III. Wednesday, 9 November, 2011
IV. Monday, 14 November, 2011
V. Monday, 14 November, 2011

CONCUBIUM (First Sleep – Coitus – Rest)

I. Thursday, 17 November 2011
II. Sunday, 20 November, 2011
III. Friday, 25 November, 2011
IV. Thursday, 1 December, 2011
V. Thursday, 1 December, 2011
VI. Thursday, 8 December, 2011
VII. Sunday, 11 December, 2011


I. Sunday, 1 January, 2012
II. Thursday, 5 January, 2012
III. Saturday, 7 January, 2012
IV. Monday, 16 January, 2012
V. Sunday, 29 January, 2012
VI. Sunday, 29 January, 2012
VII. Friday, 3 February, 2012
VIII. Friday, 3 February, 2012


I. Sunday, 12 February, 2012

MATUTINUM (Dawn Goddess)

DILUCULUM (Dawn Twilight)

SOLI ORTUS (Sunrise)



The hotel lobby, at that early hour, was deserted except for the dark-glassed and short-haired men of General Arnold’s extraction team. Impatient to get away they had dragged Michael Mara to his room, forced him into the shower, helped him pack and brought him back down to the lobby where a sleepy Pedro, the night porter, emerged from the reception office and walked unsteadily to the counter. “Doctor Mara. You were missing. Everyone in the hotel was worried. We notified the police,” Pedro said as he looked at the dark-suited men standing in the lobby.
“I want to check out, Pedro. I need my bill please,” Michael said.
Pedro looked at his watch and then up at the lobby clock to confirm his discomfort. “But it is only twenty minutes after seven, in the morning!”
“I know Pedro, but I have to go. It’s urgent.”
“I am sorry, Doctor Mara, but the receptionist does not start until eight. I am not allowed. You will have to wait.”
Karl – the extraction team leader had reluctantly given his first name to Michael – pushed Michael aside and launched into a tirade in Spanish, most of which he couldn’t understand. In the end he didn’t need to, as the impact on the hapless night porter was obvious and by the time Karl had vented his fury, Pedro was quivering. He agreed to get the receptionist to forward the account to the Hoxygene office. Michael felt sorry for him, and opening his wallet extracted enough for a more than generous tip.
“Thank you, Doctor Mara.” Pedro glared at Karl. “Are you, ok?”
“Yes. These are friends.”
The porter raised his eyebrows. “I hope you have a good trip. Please come back and stay with us again.”
“I certainly will, Pedro. Thank you.”
“Doctor Mara. We need to go, now!” Karl pulled at Michael’s arm.
Michael followed him out of the lobby while one of the detail reluctantly carried his hastily packed luggage.
“Oh, Doctor Mara. Wait please!” Pedro shouted as he rushed from behind the counter. He held out an envelope for Michael to take. “This arrived for you late last night. I was going to give it to the police today.”
“Thank you,” Michael said as he took the envelope from him and inspected it. Only his name, written in fine calligraphic style, appeared on the surface.
“Also,” Pedro said hastily. “Your wife telephoned two nights ago, twice in fact, about five o’clock in the morning. She sounded very upset when you were not in your room. I told her you might be away walking in the mountains. I think the police were going to try and contact her through your embassy in Madrid.”
“Thank you, Pedro.” Michael put the envelope in my inside pocket. “Did she leave a message? My wife.”
“She just said she would be back in Los Angeles in the late afternoon. You are to contact her at home.”
“Thanks again, Pedro. Good bye.”

The extraction team brusquely ushered him into a large black Volvo sedan with darkened glass windows and Michael was left seated alone in the back seat with just the driver and one other agent in the passenger seat. He watched as the agent retrieved a machine pistol, which he then lay across his lap, one finger hovering near the trigger mechanism. The driver looked back at Michael, before turning to his compatriot. “Point that hardware the other way, Dave. I’ve no fucking desire to be the unlucky victim of friendly fire caused by a Spanish pothole,” he said before he checked his rear-view mirrors and began to pull out. The remainder of the agents, had got into two further cars with blacked-out windows, one in front and one behind the Volvo and with a screech of tyres they all drove off at high speed in convoy.
Michael reached into his pocket and retrieved the envelope that Pedro had given him. I opened it, extracted and unfolded the letter, and began to read:

‘Dear Michael,
By the time you read this I will probably be already . . . ’

“Stop the car!” Michael suddenly shouted.
“What’s up, Doc?” Dave, the agent in the passenger seat, turned around and asked. “Jesus, Doctor Mara. You look like death.”
Michael hand shook uncontrollably and the letter flapped like a trapped butterfly. “I need to puke. Stop the car!
There was burst of radio chatter and the Volvo slowed to a halt near a small area of shrubbery. Michael pushed out the door and even before he could exit the car he began retching viciously. He forced himself out onto the roadway, to the margin of the baking asphalt. After expelling what little was in his stomach he rested there, bent-double and sucked in air for a few minutes until he slowly straightened and returned to the car. As he approached, the front passenger’s window wound down and Dave the front passenger agent’s face peered out. “Are you ok?” he asked with a genuine concern.
“Yes. We have to make a stop. It’s vital,” Michael answered as he wiped his mouth with the back of a sleeve.
“No can do, Doctor Mara. Our orders –”
“Fuck Arnold's orders, Dave. We either make the stop or you leave me here. Dead or alive I don’t care.” There was another clatter of radio talk. The van backed up and Karl came storming across to where he stood. Michael gave him Alonzo’s address, adding the same ultimatum.
“Very well,” the lead agent agreed reluctantly. “Ten minutes tops! Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Michael mumbled and crawled back into the car.
Karl held the door open and leant in. His face, about four inches from Michael’s, had an almost serene sneer creasing it. “By the way. If there is to be a choice of someone kidnapping you or us taking you out, then we are sanctioned to do it. Do you understand that, Doctor Mara?”
“What?” he gasped.
The door slammed shut and the car started up again. Dave turned back to look at him. “Those are our instructions Doc. You must be very important.” He handed Michael a clean handkerchief.
“Thanks. I’m sorry about earlier.”
“Part of the job. Let’s go, Hal.” Dave pointed to the departing van ahead of them. The driver nodded his head slightly, eyes firmly fixed on the rear view mirror as he pulled out. Dave kept his hand on his gun.

They travelled in silence until the Volvo pulled up outside Alonzo’s address. Michael could see that the door of the house was open and wanted to rush out but was prevented as Hal had engaged the central locking. He had to watch as agents from the escort vans jumped out and moved to secure either end of the street. He then saw Karl enter the house with his gun drawn and one other agent following. It was a few minutes before Dave’s radio earphone activated.
“We can go in now. The building is secure,” Dave announced.
“What’s up? Tell me.” Michael pleaded.
“According to Karl, it’s not very pleasant. I’m sorry Doc.”
“What do –”
“Come on. We have very little time.”
Michael got out of the car and followed Dave into the house. Karl waited by the first courtyard pool. He said nothing but indicated that Michael should follow him. They walked to the archway that led to the inner garden and he suddenly saw Alonzo sitting in a chair beneath the pavilion roof. His face had a fixed smile, eyes slightly open, but with no movement, no greeting.
“He’s dead, strangled. Couple of hours, maybe,” Karl said coldly as he moved aside to let Michael approach.
“Christ. How do you know?”
“Some lividity. Little or no rigor mortis.”
Michael instinctively put out his hand to close the eyelids. The skin was still warm to touch. “He’s still warm!” he shouted, as he pulled away his hand.
“In asphyxiation the body temperature often rises,” Karl said in a detached voice as he looked around the garden.
Michael saw that Alonzo’s face was a suffused blue-purple colour with exploded surface capillaries. He lifted his chin and then saw the cord, an interwoven black and red silk dressing-gown cord, taut around the neck. There was little sign of a struggle. No soiling, no blood…no fight it seemed, he thought. Across Alonzo’s lap lay a bundle of slender, feathered tamarisk branches tied in the middle by a wrapping of thin bark. He could see that this had been stripped from the nearby potted mulberry bush, which now looked more distressed than ever. Alonzo’s hands, the left holding the right wrist in a lock, rested on the bundle. In his fisted right hand a piece of paper protruded. Michael tried to release it but it would not budge. He looked at Karl who shrugged his shoulders.
“Cadaveric spasm,” the agent surmised.
Michael prised open the stiffened grip, forcing the fingers back to do so. One finger snapped with a sickening sound and in his panic he pulled at the hand causing Alonzo’s unresisting body to slide off the chair. His head thumped off the tiles.
“Jesus, don’t do that,” Karl shouted. “Spanish forensics will find your DNA everywhere.”
It was too late. As Michael hurriedly unravelled the paper a small hard stone like object fell to the ground. He ignored it and looked at the paper. There were ten lines of writing, in Arabic, on the paper. He shook his head and exclaimed aloud, “Shit.”
“What’s up? Doctor Mara. What does it say?”
“I don’t know. It’s in Arabic.” He handed Karl the paper and knelt down beside the chair to try and retrieve the fallen stone. His stomach retched again.
“Neither yours nor ours, he is. . . ”
“What!” Michael looked up. Dave, the passenger agent, was reading the piece of paper. “Do you read Arabic?”
“Yes, but this is not Arabic. It’s old Persian.” Dave said in a matter of fact way as he held up the paper to the light before looking back down at Michael. “School of Oriental Studies, Harvard. We are not just ‘haircuts’ you know.”
“I’m sorry, Dave. I did not mean to assume anything. Please . . .”
Dave ignored him as he spotted the stone under Alonzo’s shoe and bent down to retrieve it. He turned it in his hand a couple of times before handing it to Michael. “Anubis charm. Obsidian. Head of the jackal. Guide of the dead into Hades.”
“What does the writing say? Please translate it for me, Dave.”
‘Neither yours nor ours, he has gone directly to hell. For the Lord of Time the sun rises in the west. The dogs have looked on him and await the scattering’. It is signed by one ‘Zilullah’, the Shadow of God.” The agent-orientalist handed him back the paper.
“Thank you, Dave.”
“Do you know what this all means, Doctor Mara?” Karl was clearly agitated and anxious to leave.
“No I don’t,” he truthfully replied. “How about you, Dave?”
Dave smiled and nodded at Michael’s obvious deferral to his greater understanding. “It’s all a little strange and jumbled. The tamarisk bundle and reference to the dogs is strongly associated with the ‘ravan barsm’ ceremony of the Persian Zoroastrians celebrating the soul’s departure from the recently deceased. The barsom plant was originally used, hence the name of the ceremony, but often substituted for by tamarisk. The Anubis charm is Egyptian but the reference to the Lord of Time, I do not get. As I said, all a bit jumbled.”
“Excuse me,” Michael blurted, as he jumped to his feet and rushed back towards the first courtyard. “I must do something. I will not be long,” he shouted back to Karl but not caring whether he heard or not. Alonzo’s office was undisturbed but the door to the library was open. He ran through it and up to the lectern. The plinth was still raised, but it supported nothing but a small mound of finely ground sand. The hourglass was gone.
“We must go, Mara.” Karl had followed after him into the library and pulled at his arm. “Now!”
His thoughts were elsewhere. “What. Ok. What about Alonzo?”
“Who? Oh the stiff. We will contact the police once we are gone.”
“My friend.”
“Right. I’m sorry for your loss, but it’s no longer a concern of mine. Now come on. We’re out of here.”
There was no further resistance from Michael and within a few minutes the two vans and the Volvo were speeding through the early morning traffic. They headed north towards the road that would take them up into the Sierra Nevada. Dave said nothing for a while but then turned to look back at him. “Do you have any idea what all that was about, Doctor Mara? It seems very weird and almost . . .” He hesitated.
“Almost what?”
“The way he was killed?”
“No. Alonzo was a good friend,” he said in a distracted way, as he tried to think things through.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” Dave asked.
“When you rushed off into the house. Did you find what you were looking for?”
“No, the Voice was gone.”
“The what!”
“Oh . . . nothing. I said . . . eh . . . my voice was gone. I’m tired, Dave.”
“Sure. Get some shut-eye, Doc. It’s a long drive.”
“De nada.”

Sleep plunged Michael into a demented dream from which he was awoken, abruptly, by being tossed across the car to the accompaniment of screeching tyres. “Fucking asshole,” Dave screamed out the window. Michael looked at his watch. He had slept for about an hour but his head was still groggy. “What happened?” he asked.
“Bloody farmer. Pulled right out in front of us.”
“Where are we?”
“Near Almaden.”
“The Calatrava mercury mines?”
“Yes. Where the Fuggers and then the Rothschild’s made their money,” the previously silent driver, Hal grunted knowingly.
“But that’s on the Cordoba side. I thought that we were going to Madrid.”
“We are.” Dave turned round as Hal shoved the car into reverse. “But we reserved the option of switching to Lisbon, depending on security status.”
The car’s tyres screeched to little effect.
“Shit. Were jammed against the shoulder.” Hal had his head out the window as he turned back to Dave. “You’ll need to get out and jack her up.”
“I need to take a leak anyway.” Michael said as he opened the door and stepped out. After the air conditioned coolness of the car the arid heat outside was like a furnace. There was no damage to the car and it did not take long for Dave and Hal to lever it back onto the road.
“Ok. Let’s go.” Dave had continuously talked into his radio mike, updating those in the van ahead. Soon they were accelerating towards Madrid. Michael took Alonzo’s letter from his pocket and began to read it again:

‘Dear Michael,
By the time you read this I will probably be already dead. I have seen the light of illumination and it is blinding. I am to join the lovers in paradise. Do not distress yourself on this point unduly, as it is my ordained time. There is however a matter of greater importance that concerns you.
With my death the ‘Lordship of Time’ passes to another and with it the key to the gathering of all of the Voices. I have no further control on who that might be but I fear the worse. You must try to recover Saclaresh and prevent it falling into the gathering of evil. Our time together was all too short. In olden days the relationship of a Pir and his or her designated pupil would often last for many years. In addition to guidance towards and through the doors of the Path the pupil would also be instructed in how to identify and surmount the obstacles to that Path. We, you and I, never had the time for this and I fear that the dangers to you as a result are great. Because of this I would understand if you wish to turn away from the Path, away from the responsibility of something that you do not yet fully comprehend or understand. That is my failure not yours.
As my final act of guidance, I want to try and alert you to one of the specific dangers. In the present I gave you the other evening are the original handwritten notes that Sir Thomas Malorye gave to Caxton in 1483 and which eventually comprised the fourth book of his Morte D’Arthur. Nobody knows of their existence and I would ask that you respect that. The book in question, deals with the seduction and eventual destruction of Merlin the Magician (Magian) by the virgin prefect (perfect!) Nymue and the approbation of his powers by her. Caxton spelt it this way but, in the handwritten notes, you will see that Malorye spells the name as Nur’mei, meaning the Solis or Light of Maat, the Egyptian Goddess of Truth and Justice. Watch out for this light, for it already shines on you. I do not want to offend you in any way but like Merlin with Nur’mei, Isabella was, and is, my downfall. You, on the other hand, are akin to Sir Bab de Magus, a brother coming to Merlin’s rescue but being unable to help because of the power of Nur’mei. Isabella carries that power and the potential for both good and evil but because of my love for her its design is obscure to me.
Take up the mantle of Sir Bab, Michael, for all our sakes. You are now the last of the Magi. Find Saclaresh and prevent its gathering.
I will wait for you by the Tuba tree.
Your friend,

He read over the letter a number of times before checking his backpack to ensure that Alonzo’s package was still present. He let out an audible sigh of relief and Dave turned around to check on him. “You all right, Doc?”
“Yeah, fine, still a bit shook. I wished I could have done more.”
“There was no time. Did he have any relatives?”
“I don’t know. I’d only met him a couple of times, we never got round to talking about his family.”
“Central has informed us that the police have arrived at the house and begun their work.”
“Will they not want to contact me?”
“Not immediately. One of our crew is a forensic clean-up specialist and stayed behind.”

The countryside sped past until gradually it changed to an urban sprawl and a busy highway on the outskirts of Madrid. Turning off for the city’s airport they sped past the departures entrance and headed instead for the military airfield at the far end of the complex. A Lear jet waited, engines already fired up. It had a name – The Nightingale – painted below the cockpit window but no other markings on the fuselage. Karl and Dave followed Michael up the steps. Both seemed nervous. “Where are we headed for Karl?” he asked.

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