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THE CIRCLE SERIES
By TED DEKKER
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2009 Ted Dekker
All right reserved.
Green (with new alternate ending)....................1181
Bonus: original ending of Green....................1577
An Interview with Ted Dekker....................1591
THE BIRTH OF EVIL
CARLOS MISSIRIAN was his name. One of his many names.
Born in Cyprus.
The man who sat at the opposite end of the long dining table, slowly cutting into a thick red steak, was Valborg Svensson. One of his many, many names.
Born in hell.
They ate in near-perfect silence thirty feet from each other in a dark hall hewn from granite deep in the Swiss Alps. Black iron lamps along the walls cast a dim amber light through the room. No servants, no other furniture, no music, no one except Carlos Missirian and Valborg Svensson seated at the exquisite dining table.
Carlos sliced the thick slab of beef with a razor-sharp blade and watched the flesh separate. Like the parting of the Red Sea. He cut again, aware that the only sound in this room was of two serrated knives cutting through meat into china, severing fibers. Strange sounds if you knew what to listen for.
Carlos placed a slice in his mouth and bit firmly. He didn't look up at Svensson, although the man was undoubtedly staring at him, at his face—at the long scar on his right cheek—with those dead black eyes of his. Carlos breathed deep, taking time to enjoy the coppery taste of the filet.
Very few men had ever unnerved Carlos. The Israelis had taken care of that early in his life. Hate, not fear, ruled him, a disposition he found useful as a killer. But Svensson could unnerve a rock with a glance. To say that this beast put fear in Carlos would be an overstatement, but he certainly kept Carlos awake. Not because Svensson presented any physical threat to him; no man really did. In fact, Carlos could, at this very moment, send the steak knife in his hands into the man's eye with a quick flip of his wrist. Then what prompted his caution? Carlos wasn't sure.
The man wasn't really a beast from hell, of course. He was a Swiss-born businessman who owned half the banks in Switzerland and half the pharmaceutical companies outside the United States. True, he had spent more than half his life here, below the Swiss Alps, stalking around like a caged animal, but he was as human as any other man who walked on two legs. And, at least to Carlos, as vulnerable.
Carlos washed the meat down with a sip of dry Chardonnay and let his eyes rest on Svensson for the first time since sitting to eat. The man ignored him, as he almost always did. His face was badly pitted, and his nose looked too large for his head—not fat and bulbous, but sharp and narrow. His hair, like his eyes, was black, dyed.
Svensson stopped cutting midslice, but he did not look up. The room fell silent. Like statues, they both sat still. Carlos watched him, unwilling to break off his stare. The one mitigating factor in this uncommon relationship was the fact that Svensson also respected Carlos.
Svensson suddenly set down his knife and fork, dabbed at his mustache and lips with a serviette, stood, and walked toward the door. He moved slowly, like a sloth, favoring his right leg. Dragging it. He'd never offered an explanation for the leg. Svensson left the room without casting a single glance Carlos's way.
Carlos waited a full minute in silence, knowing it would take Svensson all of that to walk down the hall. Finally he stood and followed, exiting into a long hall that led to the library, where he assumed Svensson had retired.
He'd met the Swiss three years ago while working with underground Russian factions determined to equalize the world's military powers through the threat of biological weapons. It was an old doctrine: What did it matter if the United States had two hundred thousand nuclear weapons trained on the rest of the world if their enemies had the right biological weapons? A highly infectious airborne virus on the wind was virtually indefensible in open cities.
One weapon to bring the world to its knees.
Carlos paused at the library door, then pushed it open. Svensson stood by the glass wall overlooking the white laboratory one floor below. He'd lit a cigar and was engulfed in a cloud of hazy smoke.
Carlos walked past a wall filled with leather-bound books, lifted a decanter of Scotch, poured himself a drink, and sat on a tall stool. The threat of biological weapons could easily equal the threat of nuclear weapons. They could be easier to use, could be far more devastating. Could. In traditional contempt of any treaty, the U.S.S.R. had employed thousands of scientists to develop biological weapons, even after signing the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention in 1972. All supposedly for defense purposes, of course. Both Svensson and Carlos were intimately familiar with the successes and failures of former Soviet research. In the final analysis, the so-called "superbugs" they had developed weren't super enough, not even close. They were far too messy, too unpredictable, and too easy to neutralize.
Svensson's objective was simple: to develop a highly virulent and stable airborne virus with a three- to six-week incubation period that responded immediately to an antivirus he alone controlled. The point wasn't to kill off whole populations of people. The point was to infect whole regions of the earth within a few short weeks and then control the only treatment.
This was how Svensson planned to wield unthinkable power without the help of a single soldier. This was how Carlos Missirian would rid the world of Israel without firing a single shot. Assuming, of course, such a virus could be developed and then secured.
But then, all scientists knew it was only a matter of time.
Svensson stared at the lab below. The Swiss wore his hair parted down the middle so that black locks flopped either way. In his black jacket he looked like a bat. He was a man married to a dark religious code that required long trips in the deepest of nights. Carlos was certain his god dressed in a black cloak and fed on misery, and at times he questioned his own allegiance to Svensson. The man was driven by an insatiable thirst for power, and the men he worked for even more so. This was their food. Their drug. Carlos didn't care to understand the depths of their madness; he only knew they were the kind of people who would get what they wanted, and in the process he would get what he wanted: the restoration of Islam.
He took a sip of the Scotch. You would think that one, just one, of the thousands of scientists working in the defensive biotechnological sector would have stumbled onto something meaningful after all these years. They had over three hundred paid informants in every major pharmaceutical company. Carlos had interviewed fifty-seven scientists from the former Soviet bioweapons program, quite persuasively. And in the end, nothing. At least nothing they were looking for.
The telephone on a large black sandalwood desk to their right rang shrilly.
Neither made a move for the phone. It stopped ringing.
"We need you in Bangkok," Svensson said. His voice sounded like the rumble of an engine churning against a cylinder full of gravel.
"Yes, Bangkok. Raison Pharmaceutical."
"The Raison Vaccine?" Carlos said. They had been following the development of the vaccine for over a year with the help of an informant in the Raison labs. He'd always thought it would be ironic if the French company Raison—pronounced ray-ZONE, meaning "reason"—might one day produce a virus that would bring the world to its knees.
"I wasn't aware their vaccine held any promise for us," he said.
Svensson limped slowly, so slowly, to his desk, picked up a piece of white paper and scanned it. "You do remember a report three months ago about unsustainable mutations of the vaccine."
"Our contact said the mutations were unsustainable and died out in minutes." Carlos wasn't a scientist, but he knew more than the average man about bioweapons, naturally.
"Those were the conclusions of Monique de Raison. Now we have another report. Our man at the CDC received a nervous visitor today who claimed that the mutations of the Raison Vaccine held together under prolonged, specific heat. The result, the visitor claimed, would be a lethal airborne virus with an incubation of three weeks. One that could infect the entire world's population in less than three weeks."
"And how did this visitor happen to come across this information?"
"A dream," he said. "A very unusual dream. A very, very convincing dream of a future world populated by people who think his dreams of this world are only dreams. And by large white bats who talk."
Now it was Carlos's turn to hesitate.
"Who know more than is humanly possible, it seems. We have our reasons for paying attention. I want you to fly to Bangkok and interview Monique de Raison. If the situation warrants, I will want the Raison Vaccine itself, by whatever means."
"Now we're resorting to mystics?"
Svensson had covered the CDC well, with four on the payroll, if Carlos remembered correctly. Even the most innocuous-sounding reports of infectious diseases quickly made their way to the headquarters in Atlanta. Svensson was understandably interested in any report of any new outbreak and the plans to deal with it.
But a dream? Thoroughly out of character for the stoic, black-hearted Swiss. This alone gave the suggestion its only credence.
Svensson glared at him with dark eyes. "As I said, we have other reasons to believe this man may know things he has no business knowing, regardless of how he attained that information."
"It's beyond you. Suffice it to say there is no way Thomas Hunter could have known that the Raison Vaccine was subject to unsustainable mutations."
Carlos frowned. "A coincidence."
"I'm not willing to take that chance. The fate of the world rests on one elusive virus and its cure. We may have just found that virus."
"I'm not sure Monique de Raison will offer an ... interview."
"Then take her by force."
"And what about Hunter?"
"You will learn by whatever means necessary everything Thomas Hunter knows, and then you will kill him."
One Day Earlier
THE WATER cascaded over Thomas Hunter's head and ran down his face like a warm glove. It was just that, water, but it washed away all his concern and anxiety and set his mind free for a few minuets. He'd been here a while, lost in a distant world that hung on the edge of his mind without any detail or meaning. Just escape. Pure escape, the closest he ever got to heaven these days.
A fist pounded the door. "Thomas! I'm outta here. You're going to be late."
A mental image of a much older Kara flashed through his mind. She was graying, perhaps in her fifties, and she was asking him to take her with him. Just that: "Take me with you, Thomas."
And then the image was gone. He blinked under streams of water, suddenly disoriented. How long had he been here? For the briefest moment he was at a loss as to how he'd even gotten here.
Then it all came crashing in on him. He was in the shower. It was late morning. His shift at Java Hut started at noon. Right? Yes, of course.
He shook the water from his head. "Okay." Then added, "See you tonight."
But Kara was probably already out the door, headed to her shift at the hospital. The thing about his sister: she might only be in her early twenties like him, but what she lacked in age, she more than made up for in maturity. Not that he was irresponsible, but he hadn't made the transition from life on the streets in Manila to life in the States quite as smoothly as Kara.
He stepped out of the shower and wiped the steamed mirror with his forearm. He ran both hands through his wet hair and examined his face as best he could with streaks of water clinging to the glass.
Not bad. Not bad, chicks dug a little stubble, right? He'd lost some of his edge over the last couple years in New York, but Denver would be different. The troubles with loan sharks and shady import partners were behind him now. Soon as he got back on his feet, he would reenter society and find a way to excel at something.
In the meantime, there was the coffee shop he worked at, and there was the apartment, gratis, thanks to Kara.
He dressed quickly, grabbed a day-old sugar donut on his way out and headed up Ninth, then through the alley to Colfax, where the boutique coffee shop better known as Java Hut waited. The Rockies stood against a blue sky, just visible between high-rise apartments as he made his way up the street. Mother was still in New York, where she'd settled in after the divorce. It had been a tough road, but she was set now.
Indeed, the world was set. He just had to put some time in, regroup, and let life come to him as it always had, with fistfuls of dollars and a woman who could appreciate the finer things in life. Like him.
Okay, only in his dreams at the moment, but things were looking up. Maybe he'd finally get back to one of those novels he'd written when his dream of conquering the publishing world was alive and well.
Thomas entered the coffee shop two minutes past noon and let the door slam shut behind him.
"Hey, Thomas." The new dark-haired hire, Edith, smiled and gave him a wink.
Okay ... interesting. Pretty enough. But being a magnet for trouble, Thomas didn't make a habit of flirting with women he knew nothing about.
She tossed him a green apron. "Frank would like you to show me the ropes."
"Okay." He stepped around her and behind the counter.
"We close together tonight," she said.
Right. Frank had started up these ten-hour shifts a week earlier. "Okay."
He refused to look at her, knowing what was on her mind already. It was the farthest thing from his mind.
The day passed quickly and he managed to close with her without either betraying his general disinterest in her or offering any encouragement. But showing her the ropes, as she called it, had taken longer than usual, and he didn't get out till ten thirty that night.
He headed down the street, headed for the apartment. Another day, another dollar. Not fistfuls, but at least it was steady. More than he could say for his, uh ... more ambitious gigs. All was good. All was ...
But then suddenly all wasn't so good. He was walking down the same dimly lit alley he always took on his way home when a smack! punctuated the hum of distant traffic. Red brick dribbled from a one-inch hole two feet away from his face. He stopped midstride.
This time he saw the bullet plow into the wall. This time he felt a sting on his cheek as tiny bits of shattered brick burst from the impact. This time every muscle in his body seized.
Excerpted from THE CIRCLE SERIES by TED DEKKER Copyright © 2009 by Ted Dekker. Excerpted by permission.
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