‘When you say Christian values, you are aware how those words frighten most non-Christian Americans?’

‘It’s just an expression, Richard. I love all Americans, be they Jew or Hindu, or whatever, as long as they respect the values of a Christian society, which is what we preach.’

‘You realize what you’re saying flies in the face of the Constitution.’

‘I believe in the Constitution, but let’s face facts. It’s been less than forty-five days since our political leaders nearly wiped out our entire species. If that’s what the Constitution protected, then it needs some serious amending. Our Lord and Savior didn’t save our butts just to watch us commit the same sins all over again. We need to learn from the events of 2012 and move on.’

‘Again, you credit Jesus with saving humanity, giving no credence to the administration’s reports about Michael Gabriel.’

‘That crock about a race of superior humans building the pyramids? Please.’ Mabus leans forward, his eyebrows knitting. ‘Let me tell you something about this Michael Gabriel. I’ve spoken with many clergymen who are absolutely convinced he was the Antichrist.’

‘Mr. Mabus, by every account, Michael Gabriel died a hero.’

‘According to who? The government responsible for nearly getting us nuked? It’s well documented that Gabriel’s father, Julius, was a wacko, and so was Gabriel. He spent eleven years in a mental asylum for assaulting former Secretary of State Pierre Borgia. Does that sound like a hero to you? For all we know, Michael Gabriel may have been the one responsible for causing that alien to awaken in the first place. He did claim he had entered its vessel in the Gulf, right? He even said he was in communication with that demon.’

‘True, but-’

‘But nothing. We’ve all seen the footage. Gabriel entered the serpent’s mouth, and the two of them disappeared. Poof!’

‘What are you implying?’

‘Ain’t implying anything, I’m tellin’ you straight out that our Lord and Savior intervened at our darkest hour, sending Gabriel and his serpent back to Hell whence they came. Divine intervention, Richard, not some Mayan malarkey. Now humanity’s at a crossroads. We either learn from this brush with extinction and elect leaders who will help us become the God-fearing people Jesus always wanted us to be, or we stick our heads back in the guillotine and wait for the next Judgment Day.’

Peter Mabus signs three more autographs, then boards his private jet.

Campaign organizers line up to greet him in the aisle.

‘Beautiful job, Peter. The latest polls show us approaching 22 percent.’

‘The Dallas speech netted just under two million. Well done.’

‘Salt Lake City booked us for three more trips. The Mormons love you.’

Mabus acknowledges each assistant as he makes his way to his private office located in the rear of the 707 airbus.

An older, white-haired gentleman is waiting for him inside.

Mabus’s campaign manager, Texas billionaire Joseph H. Randolph, Sr., looks up from watching the CNN broadcast. ‘You did well on the family values crap, but you lost points when you labeled Gabriel the Antichrist. This campaign’s success may be fueled by a faith-based initiative, but the public still views Gabriel as a hero. In the end, his close ties to Chaney may be our undoing.’

‘Michael Gabriel will be old news by the 2015 New Hampshire primary.’

‘Maybe, but his child won’t be.’

‘His child?’

Randolph nods. Hands him the report.

Mabus scans the document, his blood pressure rising. ‘The Vazquez woman’s pregnant?’

‘Yes, and when the public finds out, and they will, they’ll flock to her like she’s the second coming of the Virgin Mary, her newborn worshiped like the baby Jesus. Chaney won’t even have to campaign, he’ll waltz into the White House for a second term, and we’ll never get his kind out of power.’

‘Christ!’ Mabus punches the closest wall, then rubs his knuckles as he collapses into an easy chair. ‘So? What do we do?’

‘Only one thing to do, we get rid of this Vazquez woman before the public finds out she’s pregnant. I’ve already got my sources working on finding her. Fortunately, Homeland Security’s overseeing her case, so it should be relatively easy to get to her.’

‘Do it. Spare no expense. I want that bitch and her demon seed dead by the weekend.’



‘Attention. Lead vehicle now approaching final destination. Have a nice day.’

The sound of the Jeep’s autopilot awakens Dominique. She stretches, inclines her seat, then glances at the digital clock. Seven-thirty. I’ve been asleep for two hours.

Evelyn Strongin’s black Toyota is three car lengths ahead, both vehicles exiting Smart Highway 95, following the ramp into St. Augustine, America’s oldest city.

It was in 1513 that famed explorer and treasure hunter Don Juan Ponce de Leon first arrived in Florida, claiming the ‘Land of Flowers’ for Spain. Fifty-two years later, King Philip II appointed Admiral Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles as governor of Florida to protect the colony from the French. Menendez arrived on August 28, 1565, the Feast Day of St. Augustine and quickly fortified the coastal town, naming it after the holiday.

St. Augustine’s history would be a bloody one. In 1586, Sir Francis Drake attacked and burned much of the city; in 1668, the pirate John Davis pillaged the town, murdering sixty people. With the British establishing colonies in the Carolinas and Georgia, Spain authorized the construction of the Castillo de San Marcos, a stone fort that surrounded the city, preventing it from being seized.

In 1763, Florida was ceded to England in exchange for Cuba, then returned to Spain twenty-three years later. The American Revolution forced Spain to relinquish Florida to the United States, and it eventually became the twenty-seventh state to be admitted to the union. America’s oldest city would fall prey to a yellow fever epidemic, then see its borders occupied by the Union Army during the Civil War.

St. Augustine’s bad run of luck would change in 1885, with the arrival of Henry Flagler.

The cofounder of Standard Oil saw the city’s potential as a winter resort, and was soon investing heavily in lavish hotels and a railway linking New York to St. Augustine. A new city hall, hospital, and several churches would follow, making the city founded fifty-five years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock the jewel of the South.

More than a century later, St. Augustine remains a popular tourist attraction, maintaining much of its old Spanish ambiance. The stone fort still remains, as do many of the city’s original cobblestone streets and dwellings. One home dates back some four hundred years, and locals claim the older sections of the city are haunted by the souls of the dead. ‘Ghost’ walking tours are given nightly in the old quarter, passing through dark streets and cemeteries where the spirits are said to be especially active.

Dominique disengages the autopilot, directing the Jeep along Orange Street and past the two looming stone pillars that once served as gateposts to the fortified city. The Toyota continues on for several blocks, then pulls into a parking lot across the street from an old brick drugstore.

Dominique parks next to Evelyn’s car.

The old woman climbs out, stretching to ease her stiff back. ‘I’m not used to sitting for so long. Come, my dear, we’ll pay our respects, then you’ll join me for dinner.’

Dominique follows Evelyn across the street and into the centuries-old drugstore.

‘This dwelling and its parking lot were built over a sacred Indian burial site. The souls of the desecrated are still quite restless.’ She points at the front window where the headstone of Seminole chief Tolomato sits. A wooden sign stands next to the gravestone.

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