Wednesday, May 02, 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
II. Saturday, 18 February, 2012
III. Wednesday, 22 February, 2012

MATUTINUM (Dawn Goddess)

I. Monday, 27 February, 2012
II. Sunday, 4 March, 2012
III. Sunday, 4 March, 2012
IV. Friday, 9 March, 2012
V. Friday, 16 March, 2012
VI. Friday, 16 March, 2012
VII. Friday, 16 March, 2012
VIII. Friday, 16 March, 2012
IX. Wednesday, 21 March, 2012
X. Wednesday, 21 March, 2012
XI. Wednesday, 21 March, 2012
XII. Friday, 23 March, 2012
XIII. Friday, 23 March, 2012
XIV. Friday, 23 March, 2012

DILUCULUM (Dawn Twilight)

I. Monday, 16 April, 2012
II. Monday, 23 April, 2012
III. Friday,, 27 April, 2012
IV. Wednesday, 2 May, 2012

SOLI ORTUS (Sunrise)




It was five in the morning London time. The phone was picked up on the first ring. “Hello,” a voice said wearily.
“Hello Max. It’s –”
Is that you, Michael? Christ! Where the hell are you? I’ve been trying to contact you. Something terrible has happened. Something terrible has happened to Caroline. I don’t know how to say this but they said… oh Christ…they said she has been –”
“Caroline is dead. Murdered. I know. I just found out. It’s terrible Max. I am so sorry. You loved her so much. Who told you?” Michael asked.
“The Mexican authorities contacted your home and your housekeeper gave them my name. They said very little other than she was shot. Something to do with her work, they said. What the fuck happened, Michael? Do you know anything else? Where are you anyway?”
Michael explained that he was in Corsica and told his brother-in-law as much as he dared about the cocaine virus work and its links to the involvement and death of Caroline, Alexander and Rod Mallory. He did not tell him about Mallory’s role in the death of Caroline.
“Ah Christ! Why Caroline?”
“ I don’t know Max but could you do something for me, please?”
“What? Sure…if I can. What do you want Michael?”
“I need you to go to Mexico.”
“I’ve already made the arrangements. I leave in two hours.”
“That’s great. Would you identify Caroline’s . . . Caroline for me and arrange for her transport home.”
“Please, Max. It seems that there may still be a hitman looking for me and the US military minders that have been sent to guard me have advised against it.”
There was a long pause before his brother-in-law answered. “Right. But don’t expect anything more from me Mara. Caroline’s death is your entire fault. You and your bloody virus! And another thing! I will make arrangements for her to be flown back to England to be buried in the family plot. ”
“She would have liked that Max. That is fine. Thanks. I am so sorry. l will –”

The phone line went dead. Michael stared at the phone for a few moments. He knew that Max was right. Caroline’s death was his fault and he had to try and make some sense out of all that had happened. He scrolled through the address book of his phone until he found the number he wanted and dialled. While he waited for the connection, he thought about what he was about to do. He knew now that he had one opportunity, and one opportunity only, to follow the trail of Saclaresh to Armenia and that it had to be done immediately, before the news of the villa explosion broke. The business of the living occupied his thoughts. He owed it to Alonzo. He owed it to Caroline and he owed it to himself.

Twenty minutes later Dave called for him. They headed for Bastia airport where an unmarked, CIA-operated, Lear jet waited for them. The flight was smooth and they landed at the RAF Northolt Airbase, at about 10.00 hrs GMT, and made the short transfer by car to Heathrow. General Arnold had arranged for Dave and Michael to fly on the United Airlines 13.55 connection to Los Angeles, with an immediate onward connection on a Mexicana de Aviacion flight to San Jose Cabo in Baja. There was an airport closer to La Paz but the routing chosen offered the quickest connections. A car would be waiting at San Jose Cabo to take them to the morgue in La Paz.

But Michael had made other plans. Using Hoxygene’s membership of the British Airways Executive Travel Club, he had made a booking, before leaving Corsica, on British Airway’s scheduled 13.35 flight from Heathrow to Moscow. From there he would connect on Aeroflot’s Flight 191 to Yerevan. Once in Heathrow’s terminal it had not been difficult for Michael to give the sprawled and snoring Dave the slip and make for the transfer desk. The agent, without sleep for the best part of forty-eight hours, and his body withdrawing quickly from the caffeine and amphetamine-fuelled operational status, had quickly fallen into a deep sleep. With hand luggage only Michael picked up the ticket at the transfer desk and waited until the very last moment before rushing to the designated gate. As he neared it Michael kept looking back. He was suddenly afraid of cutting the boarding time too closely and of Dave being alerted by his name being called over the tanoy system. The ticket had been charged to a coded account, established deliberately by Hoxygene’s ex-CIA, but still spookish security consultants, to reduce the risk of industrial espionage. It allowed masking of the commercial movements of Hoxygene’s executives and it would be some days before the transaction could be traced. In the meantime, as he settled back into his seat, Michael consoled himself that they, the good and the evil, would never think of Yerevan.

The connection from Moscow was delayed by a couple of hours and as the plane descended from the early morning sky into Yerevan airport, Mount Ararat and Little Ararat rose up to meet it to the west. Like Kilimanjaro, a mountain he had once climbed, snow was still present on the higher summit even at the end of the summer heat that had scorched brown the ancient plains below it. On the northern face of the mountain, about midway up he could make out the Turkish military base, known as Koran Kilesi, which had its guns trained on the Armenian border below.  Despite the early morning hour Michael found the circular spaceship-like terminal to be oppressively hot and after a drawn out passport inspection his 21 day visa was issued – reluctantly – for a consideration of 50 dollars. The person ahead of him in the queue, he noticed, an Italian hotelier, had only paid 35. The decision seemed arbitrary.
Michael took a taxi to the city. The main road was already getting busy and very soon his empty stomach heaved at the sight of a sheep being slaughtered in a roadside butchers. There were three of four other sheep awaiting their fate in the small pen next to the dawn killing zone. Michael’s memory of the events at the villa and the thought of Caroline’s body lying stiff in a morgue in Mexico ebbed and flowed with the waves of nausea.
The centre of Yerevan city itself was small, Michael thought, dominated as it was on the western bank access route by the French-owned brandy factory.  The taxi driver gesticulated with pleasure when pointing the building out, his face cartooning a punch-drunk fighter in the absence of language. Michael nodded as he felt his chin. Thanks to Dave’s efforts, he fully understood the characterization, and the helplessness of the pain. The monument to the Armenian genocide was briefly glimpsed as the taxi turned into the wide avenue that would bring them to the hotel. Its stark memorial granite could have been placed anywhere, he felt, even Corsica.
At the Hotel Yerevan the welcome was warm and friendly. Good-looking girls and serious men busied themselves in their attention to guest’s needs. After booking a taxi for the late afternoon to take him to the monastery at Etschmiadzin, he made for his room and a much needed shower and rest. Sleep came quickly; the telephone call ended it.

“Your taxi is here, Doctor Mara,” a voice announced sweetly.
“Thank you. I’ll be down in a minute,” he answered drowsily.
“He will wait. No problem.”
“Excuse me. What is your name?”
“Gaiane, could I have some sandwiches and coffee in the lobby before I leave.”
“Certainly, Doctor Mara. I will arrange that straight away.”
“Thank you.”
Michael showered again and feeling somewhat better, quickly dressed in clean clothes and stepped out onto the balcony corridor that looked down onto the enclosed atrium cafe. There were huddles of people in deep conversation and he was relieved when nobody looked up. The nearby glass capsule lift had some white-legged children heading for the pool and leisure club on the hotel roof. He took the stairs.
After the much needed coffee and food were hurriedly finished he headed for the reception desk. A tall girl with beautiful eyes and a slightly arched nose was beaming a smile towards him. Her jet-black hair fell in a pageboy cut onto bare shoulders. He looked behind, suspecting she was smiling at someone else. There was no one there.
“Doctor Mara,” she said.
“Yes,” he said warily.
“I am Gaiane.” 
 “Oh . . . I see.” Michael automatically reached into his pocket to extract some money for a tip. “Thank you, Gaiane for your trouble.” He peeled off a few dollars from a billfold and proffered them in the distracted way of well-off tourists and businessmen.  
“That is not necessary, Doctor Mara. I was just doing my job,” she said emphatically.
The receptionist’s smile had vanished and the tone of her voice became formal and abrasive. She stared down at the opened billfold in his hand. He had somehow offended her and didn’t know why. The other staff in the lobby seemed to be watching his reactions carefully. “Nevertheless, Gaiane, I would like you to have the money.” Michael hastily replaced the billfold in his trousers pocket and tried to retrieve the situation. “I really appreciate your kindness.”
“No thank you. It really is not necessary.”  She turned away and retreated behind the reception counter.
Michael waited for a few seconds wondering what to do. He followed her to the counter. “I’m sorry, Gaiane. Did I offend you in some way? I would like to know because I would hope not to do it again.”
“No . . . I am sorry, Doctor Mara. It is my fault. It is not you. I am just overreacting.”
“To what?” he asked concerned.
“Another guest,” she said in an embarrassed way.
“What happened?”
“A short time ago, just before you arrived, another American guest pulled out a billfold just like you and, making sure everyone could see, started peeling back 100 dollar-bills until reaching a single dollar note, which he then handed over. One of those larger bills would be my father’s pension for three months, and he knew it. He was trying to buy me and expected that I would comply.”
“Some people are very rude.”
“Sure. It is the price we have to pay to be so dependant on others. Sometimes, it is too high a price.”
“I tell you what, Gaiane. Is there a communal tip box?”
“Yes. On the other counter.”
“Good. I will deposit some of Uncle Sam’s corrupting influence in that. My conscience will be clear and everyone will benefit.”
Gaiane smiled and her attitude relaxed.  “You are going to Etschmiadzin? To see the monastery?”
“May I ask of you a favour, Doctor Mara?”
“Sure Gaiane . . . But only if it doesn’t involve killing other foreigners. Please call me Michael.”
“No, nothing like that.” She laughed but he couldn’t be sure that she meant it from the slightly wistful smile that briefly creased her face. “May I take a lift with you? I live near the monastery and I’m off duty for a few hours.”
“Of course.”
“Thank you. I’ll only be a moment.” Gaiane explained what she was doing to the duty manager. He appeared, in the very formal way of Armenian men, to disapprove. The other female receptionists smiled and giggled as Michael followed her out the door and into the waiting taxi.

The journey to Etschmiadzin was at funeral pace. Despite the taxi being a gleaming and powerful-looking Mercedes it was underpowered with what appeared, to Michael at least, to be a lawnmower’s engine. It eventually chugged into the dusty carpark outside the fortress-like walls and gate of the monastery complex. A new church was being built nearby and the straining hiss of a hydraulic crane echoed at intervals across the space. On the journey Gaiane gave Michael a brief account of her life. She was a trained chemical engineer who refused to take the well-worn road of Armenian emigrants to Russia, France or the USA. “I did postgraduate work in the Sorbonne but ran away. I liked Paris though. I also went to Imperial College in London. Again I ran away. I am always running away. From situations.”
 “Probably not running away,” Michael replied. “Maybe you were running towards something. Something undefined but better.” Michael found it somehow comforting to hear some of his own thoughts verbalized. “I understand entirely.”
“Perhaps, but I am happy here, for now. The income from the hotel is at least regular.” Gaiane said this with sad eyes and a slightly resigned shrug of her shoulders.
 As the car shuddered to a halt she gave him a brief synopsis of the history of the complex. “Descentdit Unigenitus: ‘The descent of the only Begotten One’. In the Armenian language called Etschmiadzin. Tradition holds that it was here that St Gregory the Illuminator had his vision. You will enjoy its serenity.”
“Thank you very much for your help, Gaiane.”
“When you go inside the monastery ask for Stephen. He speaks excellent English and is very knowledgeable.”
“Is he a monk?”
 “No. He is a lay worker who is a full-time guide to the complex and a friend of my family. Say that I sent you.”
 The door opened and Gaiane stepped out. As she leant back in to shake his hand she pushed the hair falling down the left side of her face out of the way for a moment. The handshake finished, she turned and walked away.
Something about her suddenly bothered him and he called after her. “Gaiane! Wait!” Michael hurriedly got out and pulled out his wallet to pay off the taxi driver. The man looked at the dollars that Michael proffered and protested.
“Too much! Too much!”
“Is this enough?” Michael pulled out a smaller denomination but was annoyed by the driver’s slow accounting. “Gaiane, please wait!” he shouted after her again.
She appeared not to hear him and continued to walk away, disappearing down a small alleyway. He wanted to run after her but the taxi driver was not quite satisfied. Other drivers were gathering round in his pursuit of the proper change. Michael pressed the money on him and with a forced smile walked away from the car and through the monastery gate. He decided to forget about the girl. He needed to hurry. In the small souvenir shop Michael asked for Stephen and a few minutes later a bearded dark-haired man in a long brown cassock appeared. He looked like a monk and his eyes flared at Michael’s initial questions until Gaiane’s name was mentioned. After that he became very knowledgeable and anxious to help.
“Why is it you are here, Doctor Mara?” he asked.
“I am looking for a seal or stone that might have been given to the monastery in the 1850’s. It is made of lapis lazuli,” Michael explained.
“What is lapis lazuli?” the Armenian asked.
“Ultramarine from Afghanistan.”
“Ah. Lazurite. What is the importance of this seal?”
“It might have some very ancient carvings on it. From the dawn of time.”
“I don’t know of any such stone but let us go into the museum.”

Michael followed Stephen into the Church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. The basilica’s interior was chairless and spacious and groups of schoolchildren wandered freely about. Stephen first entered into a side room to the right of the nave and here the walls were covered with glass cases containing the relics, jewels and books of the Armenian Church. Browsing slowly through the contents, one book caught Michael’s eye. Its cover was embossed with the symbols of freemasonry and he asked Stephen about it, “Are they not freemasonry symbols?”
“Yes.” No further information was forthcoming. “Come see the preserved hand of St Gregory.” The guide pulled insistently at Michael’s arm.
 The silver encased relic with the thumb approximating the third finger was the centrepiece of the collection. Michael had read that apparently there was another in Sis, and yet others located wherever schisms of the Armenian Church had dictated. The Illuminator’s hand was everywhere but pointing nowhere. There was no sign of the seal however, and Michael was worried that it was lost in the shadow-facets of one of the relics. Stephen appeared to grow bored of his attempted minute examination of every possible artefact. “Is it possible to have the display cases opened so I can view the relics in more detail?” Michael asked hopefully.
 “Perhaps. I will have to ask the curator but it will not be today.” Michael failed to hide his look of disappointment but Stephen suddenly brightened as if wanting to console him. “Come. There is something else I want to show you. I think you might be interested. Follow me.”
Michael ducked his head as he followed Stephen down through a low-arched heavy door that led off the middle room of the museum. Its direction brought them under the floor of the basilica.
“Did you know that the church was built on the ruins of a pagan temple?” the smiling guide asked.
Michael shook his head as they skirted the white clay crumbling walls along a narrow passageway. The effect was ghostly. Like bones, the clay brick, which in the light of life was red, had lost its hue to the colour-quenching effect of age. Like all catacombs the atmosphere was dust-laden and brittle. The light emitting from a single naked electric bulb was weak but once accustomed to the dimness, he found himself looking at a small, enclosed space, in the centre of which was an urn-like structure. Its rim was irregular, blackened. He turned around to look at Stephen who stood there impassively.“Is this . . . Is this a Zoroastrian fire temple?”
“Yes. You can see where the church foundations were laid directly on the pagan’s stone. Look at the wall behind you.” There was an ancient carving of the Avestan circle of eternity set into the wall. At the centre was a representation of the sun. Stephen touched it but was then anxious to leave. “It is at this point that we accept donations for the upkeep of the church,” he added.
“May I stay here a while?” Michael asked as he handed him twenty dollars.
 Stephen smiled, nodded and left him alone.
Michael waited there, hearing Alonzo’s words in his head: It will find you! He sat on a low wall balancing carefully, afraid of his full weight collapsing its pale frailty. Examining the temple precinct provided no clues or inspiration. Suddenly, the light bulb flickered bright then went out and he found himself in pitch darkness. He could hear the lock of the far off door engage. Stephen or the other keepers must have assumed he had left, he thought. There was only silence, a dense silence. Michael did not move, nor did he want to cry out. It was if he was expecting something to happen. He needed something to happen. With his cigarette lighter’s rapidly diminishing fuel he found a dry corner in a side passage. He hoped there were no rats, or snakes for that matter. A cool breeze flowed in from somewhere. He hunkered down, listening to the silence and soon, still exhausted, fell asleep.

It was some hours later that he was woken by the scraping noise of stone moving on stone. He looked out from the recess of his hiding place. Suddenly the temple’s pagan walls were full of flickering shadows thrown up by hand held candles. Three figures were emerging from a hidden door in the wall where the circle of eternity stood. Maybe this is what Stephen had wanted to indicate. Alonzo’s image smiled at him. Michael retreated back into the recess as far as he could. The figures were all wearing grey-white robes and tightly wrapped turbans on their heads. The first of them carried a bunches of kindling under one arm. Perhaps, Michael thought, this was the sacred barsom of Dave’s explanation in Granada. The second figure had a small pitcher of liquid and the third carried with two hands, a platter on which a small object was centred.
The ghostly figures drew closer to where he was hidden but suddenly turned right to enter into the pit. The first man, Michael assumed they were men, placed the kindling in the fire bowel and soon the smell of scented wood-smoke filled the room.
They began chanting:
Verethraghnem ahuradhatem yazamaide,
 Verethraghnem ahuradhatem yazamaide,
 Verethraghnem ahuradhatem yazamaide.”
Their voices echoed off the walls. The oldest looking of the figures with a white bushy beard lowered the platter he was holding towards the rim of the fire urn. He tilted it slightly. Michael could see a reflection. It was a mirror. The object in the centre caught the light of the candles. It shone a brilliant blue. Specks of gold twinkled from its core.
It was a blue button-shaped stone. Michael knew that he had found Saclaresh, or it had found him. He let out a gasp with the realisation and instantly the three hooded heads jerked in unison towards where he was hiding. They began to approach him. They shouted loudly. At that very moment the lock in the far off door clattered with the sound of keys being inserted. The hooded figures panicked. Michael saw the older man stumble. The platter mirror tilted some more and the blue stone slid off and toppled into the fire urn. There was a scatter of sparks. The men rushed past him in their anxiousness to escape through the stonewall door. It just closed behind them as the electric light bulb flickered once more into action.
Clattering footsteps were rushing along the narrow passageway at the far end of the temple. “Doctor Mara! Are you in here still?” It was Stephen’s voice.
“Yes.” Michael slid out from his hiding space and hurriedly stepped into the centre of the fire pit, pretending to warm his hands on the fire.
Stephen’s face soon appeared above the low wall. He appeared breathless and flushed. “I am so sorry. I should have checked that you had left.”
“It’s ok. No problem.” Michael spoke as Stephen lifted his nostrils to scent the air. He was carefully surveying the temple cavern and soon noticed the smoke rising from the urn.
“Were you cold. Where did you get the wood from?”
“There were some twigs and dried leaves in the side passage. I’ll just make sure it’s out.”
“I will do it.” Stephen offered.
“No, I insist.” Michael was adamant as he picked up a large stick to pat out the embers. The urn was deep and he could feel Saclaresh touch against the stick at the base. He patted gently around it.
“Doctor Mara, we must go!” Stephen growled.
“Sure.” Michael hesitated. There was nothing else he could do but pick up the seal in his hand. He would have no other opportunity. He leant down and searching among the embers felt for and found the stone. It was fiercely hot and as he pulled away he could smell the singeing contact of burning flesh. Strangely however, Michael felt very little pain and as he closed his hand tightly about the stone he gave no sign of anything being wrong. “It’s all out now. I wouldn’t want to be the cause of a fire in the church.” Michael smiled.
 Stephen shook his head as he checked the bottom of the urn before leading him out. The night air was cool and fresh. “Would you like a drink of tea perhaps?” he asked, concerned.
Michael looked at his watch. It was two in the morning. “Please. I would like to use the toilet if I may.”
“Of course. This way.”

Once in the toilet Michael ran the tap and tried opening his clenched fist. He slowly prised his fingers back. In the centre of his palm the stone lay face downwards. The brilliant blue colour had gone. It had turned white in the fire’s heat. The stone was stuck to the skin. Michael wrapped a wet handkerchief over the palm and went back out to join Stephen.
“Did you hurt yourself?” the guide asked.
“It’s just a small cut.” The pain was now coming and Michael grimaced. “How did you know I was still in there?”
“Gaiane rang me from the hotel, saying that you had not returned.”
“Why? Was somebody looking for me?” He could not help sounding suspicious.
“No. I don’t think so. Are you afraid of something. . . or someone, Doctor Mara?”
“No.” Michael lied and to distract the line of enquiry he quickly asked. “Stephen. Are there any Zoroastrians still in Armenia?”
“What a strange question? No. Of course not! The Magi are all gone. Long-ago. Why?”
“I just wondered. The fire bowl looked like it had been used recently.”
“Probably some children doing it for a challenge. A dare you call it. No?”
Michael said nothing. His hand was now beginning to hurt terribly. Sweat appeared on his forehead as he followed Stephen back into the carpark. It was still dark and checking his watch Michael now saw that it was nearly 3am local time. The same taxi driver was still waiting. Stephen had told him that Michael was a good bet for business, so he had waited. Following the call from Gaiane, the taxi-man had confirmed to Stephen that he had not left the compound and that is when he had begun to look for him. Michael sat in, exhausted. “Thank you, Stephen.”
“Enjoy the remainder of your stay in Armenia. I will ask the curator about you having the chance to inspect the relics in a little more detail. I can leave a message with Gaiane at the hotel. Is that satisfactory?”
“Very.” The urge to cry out was immense. Michael’s hand throbbed.
 Stephen looked at it and then at his face. “I hope the hand is soon better.”

The taxi moved off. Near the entrance gate Michael suddenly tapped on the taxi driver’s shoulder. “Stop!” he demanded. The pain from his hand was intense. Nausea swept over him. He thought he was going to vomit and needed to get out of the car. Once out he leant against the car and inhaled deep breaths of air. He opened his hand and unwrapped the handkerchief. The stone was no longer there. It had shattered and in its place was a small mound of white powder. The grains were so fine that they sluiced with ease through the gaps between his fingers. Michael cursed as he looked at his looked at his hand. The pain had eased but burnt deep into his palm were the marks of Saclaresh. There were flecks of golden pyrite embedded into the scorched tattoo and they glittered in the light. Suddenly Michael noticed some movements near the far end of the external monastery wall. There was very little in the way of street lighting and for a moment Michael thought the beams of the taxi’s headlamps caught the shape of three ghostly figures emerging from the shadows. He strained to make them out but they quickly disappeared again.The hairs on Michael’s neck stood on end. He knew then that he was in danger if they, the guardians, returned to the pit and found the seal missing. With luck it would not be tonight. He jumped back into the taxi and slumped into the seat.
As the taxi moved off again Michael knew that he had failed Alonzo as he had failed in his duty to Caroline. His responsibility for Saclaresh had ended in bitter failure; the shattered stone draining away like quicksilver through his fingers. But he also knew that he had to keep moving. But to where? He wondered. He needed time to think. “Hotel Yerevan and then the airport, please. Hurry.” There was a British Mediterranean flight to Heathrow at 09.35 and he had time to catch it. Just!

The taxi driver shrugged his shoulders. The Mercedes with the lawnmower engine would not be rushed.