Kalika was thorough. The Suzama Society has only two members now. The news shocks me. Surely, I say to James as he drives us toward Palm Springs, there have to be some personnel at the center who weren't involved in the attack.
"No," he replies. He adds with a bitter laugh, "We're all true believers. We believed your story, and went after the Dark Mother with everything we had." The morning sun is bright in his face but James appears close to despair as he thinks about the previous night. "We don't even have a secretary at the center now."
I reach over and rub his shoulders. "It wasn't your fault. If anyone is to blame, it is I. I knew what she could do."
"But you did warn us. You warned me. If I had listened to your suggestions, maybe fewer would have been killed."
"No. It wouldn't have made any difference. She was determined to kill them all."
He frowns. "Why did she spare my father and your friend?"
"That puzzles me," I say honestly. "The only thing I can think is that she must believe that either your father or Seymour, working with us, will eventually find the child."
He is concerned. "Do you think she's following us now?"
I have been checking to see if we are being shadowed.
"Not at this very moment, no," I say.
"Do you think my father and your friend will be safe at your house?"
He is not asking about a threat from Kalika. We are all fugitives from the law now, from the govern?ment. I have no doubt my description has been relayed to those higher-ups who knew I was at the military base in Nevada. My face has shown up at too many public slaughters lately. There is an excellent chance, I think, that the police or the FBI will be waiting for us at the Suzama Center in Palm Springs. When the bodies are all identified, they will make the natural link. That's why I have insisted we go to the center immediately. I have yet to decide if I will kill to see the scripture.
"For the time being," I say. "Your father can rest there, and Seymour will take good care of him." I pause. "You worry about him, don't you?"
He nods. "His heart is lousy."
"Are you adopted?"
My question surprises him. "Yes. I was adopted late. I was sixteen when my parents were killed in a car accident. At the time Dr. Seter and my father were colleagues at Stanford. He started out watch?ing me so I started calling him dad, at first only as a joke. But now I feel closer to him than I did to my real father. A short time after I moved in with him he found the scripture and then we shared a mission together as well as a house."
"Where did he find it?"
He hesitates. "Israel. In Jerusalem."
"That's not Western Europe."
"It's better if he's not specific. Where did you find yours? Tell me the truth this time."
He nods. "And Kalika destroyed it yesterday?"
"She took it. I don't know if she destroyed it."
"So she lets you live as well."
"I suppose," I say, feeling sad. My own daughter tried to kill me. And there had been a time not so long ago when I was willing to risk losing the world to save her. Now I see I have lost my bet, even though I am still angling for another chance to win back what has been lost. I wonder if Krishna heard my prayer while I lay on the bottom of the pool, if he let me live for a reason. I wonder if Paula's child is Krishna.
From the outside the center appears to be undisturbed, but once we are in the basement it is clear that someone has been in the vault. Sheets of the scripture lie spread on the table in the center of the room. James grabs them frantically and studies them. The color drains from his face.
"She was here," he says. "Some papyrus sheets are missing. Others are torn in pieces."
His conclusion seems logical, yet I can find no trace of her smell in the basement, and that puzzles me.
"Are you sure there are no other members of the Suzama Society alive?" I ask.
"There are just me and my dad," he says.
I stop him. "Go upstairs and keep watch. Let me try to read what is here."
"But less than half of it is here."
I realize his whole adult life has been built around the document. Giving him a comforting pat on the back, I shoo him away. Finally I am alone with a piece of the puzzle I have never held before. But I have to wonder about what is missing.
The first piece I read deals specifically with the child.
Of all the previous avatars, he who is born at the end of that time's millennium will manifest the greatest divinity to the world. He will have the playfulness of Sri Krishna, the wisdom of Adi Shankara, and the compassion of Jesus of Nazareth. He will be these divine beings, but something more, something that humanity has never seen before.
He will be born in a city associated with lost angels, but it will be dark angels who force him and his mother to flee to the mirror in the sky, where shoes move without feet and the emerald circle is seen in the morning light. There the dark forces will once again converge on him, but a powerful angel will rescue him only to lose him again. Then the place of sanctity will be defiled by red stars, and only the innocent will see the blue light of heaven. Faith is stronger than stone. The rest is a mystery.
The war between the Setians and the Old Ones never ends. I am Suzama of the Old Order. Even as these words are recorded, the mother of an angel burns under Setian stars. Her pain is my pain. I wait for the enemy, for the splinter in the earth element, and for my own death. This splinter will become a crack, and civilization will end as we know it. But all ends are temporary and all life is born from death. I am Suzama and I fear neither this end nor the loss of my own life. For this ancient war is for the purpose of dark angels and blue angels alike. Both are divine in my illumined vision, and all color is erased in the infinite abyss.
There is another piece of papyrus, torn in two. It is much thinner than the others. It speaks of Kalika.
She is the Dark Mother, all consuming and not to be trusted. She brings the light of the red stars, and a wave of red death flows from her fingertips. She is the scourge of the child, not its protector as she claims to be. Her name is Kali Ma, and it is her name that matches the dark age. All who know her will fear her.
"Suzama," I whisper, shaking. "You don't know how you curse your old friend."
But does it matter what she says about my daughter? Wasn't tonight proof enough of my daughter's demonic nature? She laughed as she killed, and no doubt drank the blood of many of those who slumped to their deaths. Suzama can tell me nothing new about my own child.
But what about the holy child? Where is this mirror in the sky, where shoes move without feet and the emerald circle is seen in the morning light? It is difficult to imagine Suzama being any more ambiguous. I almost curse her. The last thing I need now is more riddles, and all the stuff about dark angels and mistaken angels confuses me. Even worse are Suzama's references to the Setians. They were destroyed when Suzama was destroyed, in the great earthquake of ancient Egypt. Why does she go on about the war? That war is over as far as I am concerned.
"I will wait here for you. I will be here when you return."
But there was no one there when I returned.
Suzama's last prediction to me was wrong.
I call to James and he returns to the basement quickly.
"There are people outside on the street pointing at the center," he says. "I think the police will be here any minute."
"We will go then. Gather up what is left of the scripture and take it to your father."
"Aren't you going with me?" he asks.
"No. I need some time alone to think. Do you have an extra car?"
He grimaces. "We have plenty of extra cars now. You can take any one you want. Should I go to your house?"
"Yes. I will join you there shortly. Go out the back way so you won't be stopped."
He is dying to ask the question.
"Did you find out anything useful?" he asks.
I give a wan smile. "Only time will tell."
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