False Prophet, page 1
Letter from Author
About the Author
Chase your dreams; to the end of the Earth
if that’s what it takes
‘There is no sin, no matter how great, that God cannot pardon.’
Last words of Gilles de Rais before his execution in
1440 for serial murder
The Snake and the Boy
There was once an angel named Samyaza. He was the leader of a band of angels known as the Watchers; the holy ones who descended from heaven to be with man.
It was propagated that, in the beginning, Samyaza changed his form into that of a snake: a copperhead serpent said to be the most cunning of all of God’s creatures. It is in this form that Samyaza took up his position in the Garden of Eden and enticed Eve into eating the forbidden fruit, telling her that the fruit’s consumption would give her the powers of God.
Like Prometheus stealing fire to give to man, which angered Zeus because he knew that, with fire, man would eventually find little need for gods, so the Christian God was enraged by Samyaza’s trickery. Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, but man’s ultimate punishment was to live forever under the crushing weight of his own morality.
From high above, Samyaza watched as God punished man, no longer welcome in the celestial outworld of Heaven. Resentment, anger and lust boiled within him. And something else too. Hatred of God, and the burning desire for revenge.
Then one day, Samyaza felt a cold hand on his shoulder. In his rage, he made to throw off the hand, break it, smash it, tear it apart. But when he turned, his eyes flooded with bloodlust, and he met the cool, unrelenting gaze of the only creature who still had any dominion over him. Satan. And into Samyaza’s receptive ears, Satan poured a devilish plan.
Later that day, in accordance with Satan’s plan, Samyaza proposed to his followers, one hundred and ninety-nine other Watchers, that they descend to Earth, permanently, and make wives for themselves of the humans below waiting for them. It was a dangerous enterprise, one that would draw the ultimate wrath of God himself; Samyaza would take personal responsibility if they were uncovered. But the one hundred and ninety-nine drew a pact together – they would not let their leader sacrifice himself alone.
And so a covenant was reached – each Watcher was bound to himself, his kin and to Samyaza. Together, they descended to Earth, and in so doing became the Fallen Ones. Others called them Demons. Each took a human woman as his wife. And they procreated. Their offspring, a hybrid race of demon and human, were known as Giants.
But the Giants were a blasphemy. Nothing has ever existed that was more malevolent. They were a union that was supposed to be forbidden in every sense. Soon, God’s greatest creation had become corrupted, ravaged and ruined. When the Giants began to outnumber the purebloods, they turned upon their cousins – devouring them like the monsters they really were.
From his demonic castle in the clouds, Satan observed the chaos below with gleeful eyes, knowing that his tenure became safer with the death of every pureblood. He knew about the prophecy; the Bible told of it. The one to overthrow him will be a man. Well that can’t happen if there are no men left, can it . . .
In retaliation, God sent a flood to cover the Earth, and destroy all living things, including the blasphemous demon hybrids. But in order to preserve the purebloods, God saved Noah and his family. Noah, who was perfect in his generations. The purest of pure, whose lineage was untouched by the demons. The Earth’s last hope.
But Satan was not done yet.
Janus was the son of a farmer; honest and hardworking. The kind of man who would have lived and died in total obscurity, ploughing the oil seed fields or tending to cattle in the arid wilderness of southern Mesopotamia, now modern-day Iraq. That is, were it not for one fateful day.
On that day, Janus was sent by his father to recover a lost sheep, a journey which took him across the unforgiving wastelands for two days. Starving and dying of thirst, Janus was about to give up on his pursuit when he tripped and fell, a sharp pain rippling up his leg. When he looked up, he saw he had been bitten by a snake; a creature with deep crimson scales, the colour of the Arabian sunset. The same copperhead serpent that curled artfully around the Tree of Life, and who lured Eve into sin. This was God’s partisan, the wicked Samyaza.
Afraid, Janus was about to strike out with his crook, when, just as the serpent of the Garden of Eden had, the snake spoke to him, warning Janus of the forthcoming deluge. The snake advised Janus that there was no hope for his father and mother but that he, Janus, might survive if he were to stowaway on the Ark built by Noah, which was then nothing more than a wooden carcass, a giant timber skeleton jutting out of the desert.
Then the snake writhed away, and where it slithered, crops grew and water flowed. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Janus set off to find the Ark. When he did, he disguised himself as one of the labourers, but whereas those men hired by Noah to unwittingly build his vessel of survival went about blindly following Noah’s directions, Janus constructed a small, secret room below deck where he stayed until the Ark was complete.
There he remained, as the rain lashed and the wind hurled the Ark around for forty days and forty nights until the highest mountains were covered with black water and all life on Earth was extinguished, save for Noah, his family, the animals aboard the Ark and their stowaway.
When the clouds parted, and the rain relented, Janus picked his moment and crawled away, the demon bloodline pulsing through his veins.
Above him, Satan smiled. His plan had worked. It would not be long before Janus spread his demonic seed. Soon,
Emma woke in the early hours of the morning with a pounding head and a pain in her left side she didn’t recall falling asleep with. She must have gone to bed and left the skylight shutter open because the room was bathed in moonlight. She lay still for a moment with her eyes open. It was oppressively hot; she couldn’t hear the air-conditioning unit, although she was sure she had set it to automatic yesterday. Perhaps it was the heat that had roused her.
Her dressing gown was slung over a chair in the corner. It was a dull blue colour with an ugly design of roses weaving their way around each other up both sides, their heads finishing gracelessly below the breast. A present from Harry last year. She hated it. She had been with Harry for two years now – a new record – but, at thirty-three, she regarded herself as too old to call Harry her boyfriend and too uninterested to call him her partner. She was terrified that he was going to propose soon, although thankfully his work meant he was abroad a lot.
Emma closed her eyes. The pain in her side subsided – she must have just slept awkwardly. She should turn on the air-conditioning but she knew as soon as she got out of bed she wouldn’t go back to sleep. She turned over. The full moon shimmered through the skylight. In the morning, she would ditch Harry by text and burn that fucking dressing gown.
There was a noise. Her eyes shot open. A definite thud, from downstairs. She held her breath for a moment. Had she imagined it?
There it was again. Like a heavy object falling off the shelf and hitting the floor.
Emma was used to living alone; she had been doing it since she was sixteen. Harry rarely stayed for more than a few nights at a time before gallivanting off to the next conference. Everyone else was kept at a distance. Did she mind? Not really. She liked living alone; never having to compromise or accommodate other people’s little habits and rituals. But she didn’t like noises in the night.
Thud. This time louder.
Emma felt her heart rate quicken. The sheets were clammy, the heat suddenly unbearable. What the hell was that noise? Her apartment had two bedrooms on a mezzanine floor overlooking the living room. Her room had its own balcony. Downstairs, there was a separate kitchen, along with a bathroom and study. The noise could only be coming from inside her apartment.
She cursed under her breath. She was wide awake now. Was someone. . .? No, she couldn’t bring herself to complete the thought. It was ridiculous. She was alone, as always. Nobody could get into the apartment block without a key, let alone her flat. She closed her eyes. If she heard the noise again she would get up and investigate; if not, then she could put it down to the boiler playing up.
Moments passed. A longer interval than before. Her head began to spin.
Emma threw back the covers and stood up, swaying naked in the room for a minute. She felt dizzy and nauseous. Her chest fluttered with unease. She pulled the dressing gown around her and stopped to try and clear her head. What if someone was in the apartment? What if there was a gang of men carrying her electrical goods away right now? Wouldn’t it be better to stay up here?
She threw the thought from her mind and stared over the glass railing. The living room had taken on the same ghostly feel as the moonlit bedroom. She couldn’t see anything out of place, but there it was again. Thud.
The staircase arched around one side of the cavernous space below. Emma descended slowly. The wall leading down was plastered with Emma’s award-winning work. The photographs were varied, a mixture of black and white, sepia and colour: a regiment of elephants wading knee-high in water in front of the Savannah’s setting sun; children no older than ten crowded around a UN convoy, braying excitedly at the arrival of a tank; a woman wailing at the foot of a crumbled ruin, pawing at her blood-stained clothes. Emma had an eye for capturing the soul of human suffering through a lens. The thought steeled her resolve. She had lived in warzones; she wasn’t going to be scared in her own damn house.
Nonetheless, when it came again, the thud still made her jump and she hurried down the stairs.
Everything was still in the living room so she opened the double doors into the kitchen underneath the bedrooms. She fiddled with a cluster of switches near the door; everything was instantly illuminated with splashes of mellow blue light from the LEDs peppering the ceiling. She was met with an array of sleek appliances built into a black range that dominated the far wall behind an island of gleaming white units. There was no noise, except the gentle hum of the giant American-style fridge. Green digits glowed like cat’s eyes from all sides. Everything was spotless.
She left the light on and checked the bathroom, which was as she had left it. Same with the study. She took one last look at the living room. The walls were high on one side, spanning both floors: white-washed brick adorned with abstract artwork. It was sparsely furnished with odd shaped chairs. A hammock was slung between two iron pegs in the corner. The main feature was three enormous black-framed arched windows to Emma’s left. At twenty-five storeys up, it seemed as though most of London was laid out like a blanket below her.
There was nothing wrong, nothing out of place and nobody here but her. Emma felt her body relax, her breathing slow. Her disquiet was replaced with annoyance; precious sleep had been lost.
She turned all the lights off and went back upstairs. Removed the dressing gown and threw it in the corner of the room. It didn’t even deserve a place on the chair. She slumped back into bed, half pulling the cover over her naked body.
Emma closed her eyes.
She started to write the text message to Harry in her mind. But she didn’t get very far.
She realised, far too late, that the thud had been intended to lure her downstairs, giving whoever it was in the room with her now the chance to sneak in and hide.
Emma tried to scream, but a pair of strong hands were already wrapping around her mouth. She felt the weight of a man straddling her, crushing down on her chest. His knees pinned the tops of her arms. She tried to kick, thrash around, but he was too strong.
The last thing she remembered seeing was the moon through the skylight, igniting the cloudless sky with pale light. Then a strange sensation of floating as her assailant took a hammer and, with one life ending strike, drove an eight-inch galvanised nail into her skull.
The corner property of Walnut Avenue was a rundown grey-bricked Georgian townhouse with peeling sash windows and black railings. There were five floors: one below pavement level and the top floor signified by three smaller windows peering over the visible roofline.
Two cars were parked on the opposite side of the road a little further down. In the front seats of the first – a blue Mercedes – two people were watching the house. The driver was Sasha Merriweather, a partner in the law firm Merriweather, Stevens and Shuttler. Her passenger was Henrik Vose, Sasha’s client’s representative, who sat fidgeting with his tie and anxiously checking an expensive-looking watch.
‘He’s late,’ Henrik remarked.
‘Don’t get upset. He’ll be here.’
Henrik pulled the rear-view mirror towards him and glanced at the people carrier parked behind them. Three men and one woman occupied it. Henrik knew their names but little else about them. They were hired help from Sasha’s office brought in at goodness knows what expense by Henrik’s employer. It was a good job that the people carrier’s rear windows were tinted; they stuck out like a sore thumb as it was.
‘We were supposed to execute the order at nine thirty precisely.’ Henrik shuffled in his seat. ‘It’s five minutes past that time already.’
‘He’ll be here,’ Sasha repeated.
He was struggling to hide his frustration. Whilst he had become accustomed to Sasha’s abruptness, the supervising solicitor’s timekeeping was agitating him to the point of intolerance. Henrik sighed heavily. He wished he was back at home; nobody was ever this fucking late in Ger
‘You are sure this person has no connection with Professor Owen?’ Henrik asked.
‘He has no connection with anybody involved in this case, Henrik. Stop fussing, for God’s sake. You’re making me hot.’
‘The sun is making you hot, not me.’
It was true. Since Sasha had killed the engine, the temperature had been slowly rising. Even though it was still early, the sun was already starting to bake the city. The newsreader had reported this morning that there hadn’t been a heatwave like it since 2003. Henrik had removed his jacket and loosened his tie but he was carrying extra fat around his belly these days and sweat patches were already forming under his arms.
‘We’ve got to have some air in here,’ he muttered.
Sasha turned on the electrics and Henrik opened the window. Mercifully, there was at least some breeze, although even that was abnormally warm.
‘I’ll ring him,’ Sasha said, picking out her phone from one of the Mercedes’ central compartments. ‘I have his number here.’
Henrik looked at her. ‘He’ll be subtle, won’t he?’
She stopped scrolling through the phone and returned his look. ‘He’s overseen search orders before. He knows the drill.’
‘What car does he drive? You can tell a lot about a man from the car he drives.’
‘A clapped-out old Volvo.’
Henrik whistled. ‘Great. Probably broken down somewhere, then.’
He shuffled back into his seat and wiped his brow. His trousers were saturated. He wondered whether, with her new investor onboard, it was time to ask his employer for a pay rise. Fat chance. Henrik had worked for the reclusive Elisha Capindale for six years now having answered her advert for a bookkeeper and personal assistant he saw in the local paper. He had worked for Deutsche Bank for the best part of a decade before being transferred to their London branch where he somehow managed to survive the financial crisis of 2007 only to be made redundant in a wave of cuts when the bank started to move its euro clearing business back to Germany several years later. Disillusioned, he had decided to stay in England and moved to Ely where he took up residence in an annex attached to Elisha’s manor house – the main pull of the job being that it came with a home.