Chapter 32a


Shepherds’ Tomb, November 19, 2 AM


The long line of motorcycles pounded through the little medieval village and out across the modern town.  When they reached the empty open road they switched off their lights and drove by starlight.  Once or twice the lead rider saw headlights approaching, and flicked on his own, the rest following suit.  Then when their eyes had recovered it was back to dark running.


The sound of their exhaust pipes played, now like the ram’s horn shofar, now like the serpent horn of the time of Newton. 


The cold cut through Tracy’s bones.  She hugged herself close to Konrad’s back but her hands were going numb even though she worked them.  Konrad realized the problem and unzipped his leather jacket part way so she could put her hands inside.  Oh well.  He knew what those hands were capable of. 


They rolled in the last quarter mile with dead stick.  Silently the group pulled off and let Jon go work with the night vision scope.  Konrad whispered to Tracy, “We think we are to ignore the tomb, which does not exist.  The shepherds do not point at the words.  They point at the landscape beyond.”


Jon found the vantage point where the painter had stood.  Through a small gap in the trees he could see the valley.  He held the range finder together with the scope and adjusted the two so that the sensitive point of the range finder was in the center of his field.  It was an unusually powerful laser.  It was able to reach out miles and establish a distance even without a reflective surface for a target.


The others shivered and waited while he got an average distance.  Then he had them gather around and shield the light while he called up a map on the laptop.  He could establish compass bearings from the outline of the hills beyond.  He located the tomb site on the map and, using a graphics program, placed a line from that site to the appropriate hill.  Then he measured.  Abruptly he shut the lid.


There was silence.  At last Jon spoke, “It’s the Spring of the Magdalene.  They were pointing at the spring of the Magdalene all along.  We don’t even need a reading with the global positioning system; we know right where it is.”


Silently he repacked the briefcase, and then the four of them walked down to look from the brow of the hill out over the darkened wind swept valley while the riders got together to work out their next strategy. 


Konrad came up to speak to the four.  “We must leave suddenly.  We think men approach.”  There was a disturbance a short distance down the road.  Konrad slapped Ivan on the back and whispered, “Get them out of here.”  He started running back to the bikers shouting, “Mount up and ride!”  Then he was suddenly illuminated by a searchlight.  There was the staccato of submachine gun fire, and he fell.  The four plunged down the slope.


Behind them they could hear the roar of the motors as the club tried to cover their escape.  The great motorcycles sprinted up and down the road, flipping their blinding headlights on and off, forcing the gunmen to respect them.  Somewhere a cleated boot caught a gunner on the knee and took him down.  But it did not last long.  In the end the unarmed riders were no match for automatic weapons.


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