Dr. Clotile Lejeune, a wounded but resourceful expert on ancient languages in Seattle, has her quiet world shaken when she learns that her father, from whom she has been estranged for 25 years, has been murdered in her Louisiana hometown, leaving her a 2000 year old oil jar inscribed with the name Judas Iscariot. With her soldier son, JE, Cloe goes back in time and place, seeking to unlock the mysteries of the jar, find her father's killer and to dispel her own personal demons.
With the help of a mysterious cleric seemingly sent from the Vatican, she recovers from the jar the earliest version of the Gospel of Judas Iscariot. But this is only the beginning. What remains for them to find could set the world's religions ablaze.
Across the globe, a billionaire arms merchant knows this and that is exactly his goal. He leaves a trail of bodies in his wake in his pursuit of the jar and its contents with Cloe, JE and their helpers squarely in his crosshairs. From Baton Rouge to Jerusalem, the race for answers is on. Who exactly was Judas Iscariot? Did he betray Christ? What is the past reaching out to tell Cloe?
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JUDAS the apostle
By Van R. Mayhall Jr.
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Van R. Mayhall Jr.
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Chapter OneMADISONVILLE, LOUISIANA
He was angry. His plan had been to get to the old man's house at least an hour earlier. But at 2:30 a.m. on the small-town streets, only two cars had been moving, his rental and the village's only cop on duty. To avoid suspicion he'd had to drive on through and out of the town. Even so, the cop had followed him to the city limits before turning back. This had forced him to find a secure place to park and to hike back to the target. He was now an hour and a half behind his carefully planned schedule.
"Damn," he muttered under his breath. Like German trains, he always ran on time.
But from the beginning, when he had gotten the call, this job had seemed alternately rushed, delayed, or out of kilter. Since this assignment was in the United States, he had flown commercial from his home base in the Cayman Islands to Canada. There he had simply walked across the border and, through a series of untraceable transportation legs, arrived here and now.
Standing across the way from the old man's Water Street house, he smoked a cigarette, with the glowing end hidden in his gloved fist. The black water of the river was at his back, visible now only as a deeper shade of dark against the bank. He was dressed in his usual work clothes: black trousers, black synthetic sweatshirt, and black soft-soled shoes with no identifiable tread. He wore a black backpack containing the tools of his trade. Since the light was dim, the moon having set, he could not be seen from more than a few feet away unless, of course, someone had on night-vision goggles, as he did.
He stubbed out the cigarette carefully, capturing the butt and putting it in a small bottle he carried for the purpose. His DNA would not be found at this job. From the same bottle he took two partially smoked cigarettes he had picked up in the Canadian airport and laid them on the ground where he had been standing.
Excited by the prospects of his work, he removed from his backpack a small crowbar and a silenced .38-caliber revolver, manufactured to police specifications, and headed toward the old man's house. Others in his line of work favored automatic weapons, Glocks and the like. This dark specter knew that automatics sometimes jammed, and although they carried more rounds, the five shots in the jam-proof .38 were all a skilled person needed. And skilled he was. He was the best in his field. His employers required no less.
He carefully worked his way around the side of the house. It was one of a number of small homes overlooking the river lining this side of the street. Everything was completely quiet at this hour, now after 4:00 a.m. Not even a dog barked. A small stoop led up to the back door. The door itself was wooden with an ancient lock, and a glass pane covered the top half of the door. He saw this would be easy. He wedged the crowbar between the lock and the door jam. Many of his ilk used lock picks, but in his experience the crowbar got him in faster and made the entry look like a burglary or a home invasion. The cops would waste time looking at local thugs and DNA from the Canadian smokers.
As he started to lever the crowbar against the door jam, he had a thought. Could it be? He withdrew the crowbar, grabbed the door knob, and gently turned it. The door swung silently open. He had heard there were still places like this, but he'd never expected to find one.
He entered the kitchen, knowing the old man's bedroom was in the front of the house opposite the living room. The item he had come for was supposed to be in the living room. He would have to be very quiet. He gently closed the back door, and with the night-vision goggles in place, he carefully picked his way around the kitchen table and moved into the combination dining/living room.
Standing in the middle of the living room, he scanned the mantelpiece where he had been told the object would be. Why such a precious thing would be kept in such a place was beyond his need to know. But there was nothing there. With growing anxiety, he surveyed the entire room carefully, but the item was not there.
Shit! Now what? As he turned, he heard an alarm clock in the next room go off and saw a crack of light from under the bedroom door. He quickly ripped off the night-vision goggles and waited. The thief liked to kill, but this was not supposed to be a killing mission. Adrenaline spiked within his body as he crouched, partially hidden behind a recliner, in wait for whatever was coming. The door opened, light from the bedroom flooded in, and the old man walked stiffly into the living room.
"Wha—" He was able to get out only part of the word before the shadowy figure fired his weapon, silently spitting a .38 hollow point slug into the old man's chest. He staggered, took a step, and then stumbled once. He went down hard and didn't move. A pool of blood began to spread around his body.
Satisfied the old man no longer posed any threat, the interloper tore through the front bedroom and then the rest of the house, searching for the item. After twenty fruitless minutes, he had rummaged through the bath, the rear bedroom, and the kitchen. The thief returned to the living room, lighting a cigarette as he walked, and there found a surprise. Where the old man should be lying dead, there was nothing but the pool of blood. He put the cigarette to his lips and drew in a long satisfying pull before bottling the stub and readying himself to hunt his quarry. He had not found the article, but at least he would have the satisfaction of putting the old man in his grave.
Drawing the .38, he headed toward the front bedroom where the bloody trail led and where he knew the old man must have somehow dragged himself. He entered the bedroom looking left, and clearing that direction, he swung right. The old man, bleeding profusely, sat in an overstuffed chair next to the bed, holding a 12 gauge pointed directly at the thief's chest. The intruder's reflexes were like lightning as he sought to trigger the .38, but they were no match for the single-0 buckshot that poured with smoke and fire out of both barrels of the shotgun, tearing the thief's chest and life away.
Chapter TwoClotile Lejeune leaned back in the seat as the big Boeing 777 lifted off the runway in the direction of the sea-driven prevailing winds. Early fall mornings in Seattle were cool, and she had opted for a lightweight, gray wool travel suit. Her long-sleeved pink blouse picked up the faint reddish highlights in her dark hair.
Cloe, as she had come to be known in her transplanted home, felt like she had turned her face from the future and that she and her son, J.E., were headed toward the past at five hundred miles per hour. All that Seattle and the Northwest were, Louisiana was not. Seattle was new, young, and progressive. On the forefront of the computer age, it crackled with energy. The possibilities were endless. Indeed, she had managed, through hard work and perseverance, to work her way up to the number two position in the Ancient Languages Department at the University of Washington. Louisiana, on the other hand, was mired in the past, still partly an agrarian society whose cities had been bypassed by the likes of Dallas and Atlanta. New Orleans itself was the poster child for "old world" in the United States. In about three hours the plane would deliver her directly to that other world, one in which she was almost certain she no longer belonged. Almost certain.
She thought about the urgent and confused phone call she had gotten from her uncle Sonny the day before, the call that had launched this unexpected trip. Uncle Sonny was brother to her father, Thibodeaux Lejeune. Although the small Louisiana village of Madisonville was her place of birth, she'd had very little to do with her hometown or her family there for at least twenty-five years. She had talked to Uncle Sonny, but never during that time had she spoken to her father. Thib had never met J.E., his only grandchild. But something terrible had happened to Thib, and Uncle Sonny would not or could not talk about it on the phone. He had broken down completely during their conversation. Cloe knew only that the father she had run away from more than two decades ago for painful, unforgivable reasons was now dead under unspecified circumstances. She wondered whether there had been some grisly accident. She would know soon enough.
Whatever had happened, and regardless of how she felt about him, she had told J.E. that duty required her to return to Madisonville to bury her father. J.E., born Julian Evan Lejeune, now a twenty-four-year-old Special Forces officer, a first lieutenant, certainly knew about duty; he had completed a full tour in Iraq and currently was back in the States awaiting reassignment. J.E. was a highly trained and experienced intelligence officer. His ability to learn about people and events on his laptop and through his other intel resources was extraordinary.
When she had told her son about the phone call, J.E. had said, "Mom, if it's your duty to go back, then we are going to Madisonville together."
On the huge airplane, lost in her thoughts and becoming drowsy, Cloe nodded off. Sometime later, as she slept, she suddenly felt her long-dead mother at her side, whispering something in her ear, something that she could not quite grasp but was certain was urgent. She knew it was a matter of life or death. Her mother's words seemed to be becoming clearer. Cloe almost had them.
"Mom ... Mom ... wake up, we're preparing to land." J.E. was gently tugging at her arm.
Cloe was groggy and at first unsure of where she was. As the dream disintegrated, Cloe felt her mother had been trying to warn her about something, something very important. Well, she thought, dreams could be just plain strange. But she still had trouble shaking off an ominous chill.
As they looked out the small, hard window, they could see that the plane was approaching New Orleans. Two two-lane raised concrete highways stretched across the water as far as they could see. There was heavy traffic on the long bridges. The sight of Lake Pontchartrain brought back to Cloe memories of many a happy summer.
"That's the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway," she explained to J.E. "I remember joyful times when my mom and dad would pack up for the day, and we would cross the causeway to New Orleans. Sometimes we would spend the day at Pontchartrain Beach with its rides and concessions. Once in a while, we would go to the French Quarter, Jackson Square, and the museums and, on those trips, the Cafe Du Monde for café au lait and beignets. The Causeway, that's the way we'll take home."
"Home?" J.E. asked.
"I mean to your grandfather's house," she quickly replied.
"You can continue to kid yourself if you want to, Mom," responded J.E., "but I know better. Aren't you the one who orders Louisiana's Community Coffee online? Aren't you the only person in Seattle who has both Tony Chachere's seasoning and Crystal Hot Sauce on the breakfast table?"
She laughed and wondered whether her son was not wiser than she was in many ways. Still, there were many things of which he was not aware. Life was complicated. To start with, there had been the terrible row with her father all those years ago. At age seventeen, she had fallen madly in love with a young man in Madisonville, Evan. His family had worked on the water for as long as anyone could remember, and he was a hand on one of the shell dredges on Lake Pontchartrain. Thib, when he found out about the romance, had forbidden her to see Evan. As far as Thib was concerned, that was that. But of course, there was much more.
As the big plane swooped down toward the Band-Aid–sized runway, the airport and environs grew in size and detail. The plane gently reunited with the earth and coasted slowly to the end of the runway. It then turned onto the tarmac, powered up to the gate, and mated with the docking station. In a matter of moments, J.E. and Cloe were off the plane and headed down to the ground level to pick up their luggage and look for transportation; they would talk a cabbie into taking them across the Lake to Madisonville.
While J.E. went to look for the baggage, Cloe stood in a little out-of-the-way area, watching the passengers flow by on their way to the airport's exits. She was still thinking about her mother; the dream weighed heavily on her. Cloe and her mother had been so close all those years ago. If she had lived, Cloe might have reunited with her family. Marie Louise was never really well in the last year or so of her life and died a couple of months after Cloe had left Madisonville, pregnant and in disgrace.
Even now, she vividly remembered the last unforgivable scene with her father. She had gone to the dredge-crew landing that night to meet Evan to tell him she was pregnant. They had known each other in school for years and had been dating secretly for months. She and Evan had talked previously of marriage and had even picked out a plain wedding band. In spite of the trouble she would be in with her father, she was happy thinking of the future with Evan and their child. When she got to the landing, the place was lit up with emergency lights, police, and an ambulance. They told her that a terrible accident had taken place on the dredge. Evan had been killed.
Cloe was in shock and did not want to go home to face her father. So she went to the only person she could trust with her secret: Uncle Sonny. That night she shared everything with him.
He kindly listened as she poured everything out to him and then said in his whispery voice, "Clotile, your dad's gonna be furious, but you've no choice but to go home. You can stay here, but Thib'll come looking for you. He'll hear about the accident. Your dad loves you very much, but you got to give him some time on this."
She knew Uncle Sonny was right, so she went home.
These decades later, she could remember like yesterday the horrible scene that had come later with her father.
"I told you not to see that boy, that he was no good for you!" her father shouted at the family table in the kitchen.
"Dad, I couldn't help myself. I loved Evan," she said, sobbing. Her mother was in bed, terribly ill and weak, and could not come to her aid.
"You're not much better than a common whore lying with a dredge-boat hand, getting yourself knocked up. What will people say?"
"Oh, Daddy," she said.
"I'm so disappointed in you," he screeched back. "You're supposed to go to college, to LSU. You're supposed to make something of yourself, to become somebody. Now you've ruined your reputation and our family's good name."
On and on it went until he was exhausted with rage, and she was sick with shame.
Her mother had passed away a short while after Cloe left home. Thib was devastated, and by the time Uncle Sonny had tracked her down through the bus company and innumerable calls to apartment buildings, boarding houses, and real estate firms in Seattle, her mother had been gone for weeks. She had missed the opportunity for a last good-bye and lost her last bridge to home.
She was still thinking about her mother, her father, and Evan when one of the approaching passengers caught her eye. Most of the travelers were dressed casually, some like tourists. This man was clad all in black, including a black jacket. Cloe studied him more closely, noting that he was clean-shaven and had a dark, swarthy complexion. Although she abhorred profiling, she had to admit he looked foreign and, somehow, vaguely dangerous.
As he neared her, the man glanced briefly in her direction. For the merest moment, their eyes locked, and then he looked quickly away. Cloe wondered for a splitsecond whether it was a flash of recognition she had seen in his eyes. A sharply ill-at-ease feeling descended on her.
As she studied his face, she was drawn again to his eyes. His eyes! There was something very odd about them. Then she realized they looked dead, almost like shark eyes. She thought of a killer shark circling its prey. Cloe shivered with a sudden chill and looked for J.E. What was happening to her? The man kept coming closer, drawn along with the crowd. And then he swept on past her with the outflow of passengers. Cloe last saw him entering a Mercedes limo.
Shaking off her odd reaction to this total stranger, Cloe saw J.E. approaching with the baggage.
J.E. took one look at her and said, "What's wrong? You look like you've seen a ghost."
"Nothing, let's get out of here," she replied, glancing over her shoulder. "Just some creepy-looking guy in the crowd."
As they left the airport, the heat struck Cloe like a physical force. According to the airport clock, the temperature was 96 degrees and the humidity 94 percent—"Feels like 104 degrees," the clock marquis cheerfully reported. Cloe had forgotten that fall in Louisiana can remain tropical in both temperature and humidity. She began to perspire under her wool clothing.
Above the cacophony of loading and unloading, J.E. yelled, "I've been cooler in Iraq in the middle of summer! I'll grab us a cab."
Excerpted from JUDAS the apostle by Van R. Mayhall Jr. Copyright © 2012 by Van R. Mayhall Jr.. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A captivating story from its earliest pages. During WWII, Thib, a US soldier finds a 2000 year old jar in a battlefield cave and brings it home to Louisiana and placed it on his mantle. His daughter Cloe knew about the jar, but she left home at age 17 (secretly pregnant) after she and her father had a serious fight. Father and daughter were estranged until they reunited in Louisiana 25 years later...but it was for his funeral. He had been found shot to death. Was his murder connected to the jar? Cloe now owned the relic, so she and her son began to unravel its mysteries by working with experts at a Louisiana State University lab. We quickly learn the jar may have great historical significance and the contents may challenge the core beliefs of all Christians. An attempt on her life and her son's brings in the local police. Even the Pope is drawn in, and is keen to learn the secrets of this mystical jar by now linked to Judas the apostle. The villain wants to use the contents of the jar to settle an old score with the Catholic Church. Cloe, her son and the monsignor sent by the Vatican are fighting ruthless assassins in Louisiana, Lyon and Jerusalem. The story is wrapped up dramatically with several stunning revelations about the jar's contents and the "two" mysterious warring factions trying to possess them.
I flew through this book and LOVED every word! The author obviously did a lot of research for this book, and it was so cool to read about places I know about for a change (I'm from Louisiana)! I loved the whole premise of the book. I especially love reading about anything relating to the Bible. I loved this book, and I look forward to future writings from this author. Would like to see a sequel soon, please!!
Title: Judas the Apostle Author: Van R Mayhall Jr. Publisher: AuthorBuzz/PUniverse Published: 9-2-2013 Pages: 330 Genre: Christian Fiction Sub-Genre: Fantasy; Historical; Thrillers; Supernatural ISBN: 9781491703335 Reviewed For NetGalley and AuthorBuzz Reviewer: DelAnne Rating: 3.75 Stars Taken solely as an Christian thriller, this was a fascinating read, but there are a few glaring discrepancy in some of the terms. A vestibule is a term for the entry way in a Baptist church, not a catholic one. History has never shown the Catholic to be less than willing to be hospitable to anyone disputing their beliefs or teachings. The protagonist, Dr. Clotile Lejeune was presented as a highly educated and respected linguist of ancient languages, but seemed stymied at every turn while translating the writings and text. The antagonist, The Kolektor, had no redeeming qualities, as though he were Lucifer himself in human form. Even a sociopath can blend in with society. If you, like myself, can enjoy a story without looking for perfection in facts and stretch your imagination a bit, then you will enjoy this first novel of Van R Mayhall Jr. I look forward to seeing how his work evolves with time. I gave Judas, the Apostle a rating of 3.75 out of 5 stars.
In “Judas the Apostle”, I think the author picked a great topic for the premise of his book. Instantly, before even starting, the reader is drawn into interest of whether this book will be inline or contrary to their own faith, Christian upbringing, and ideas regarding Judas and any possible surviving writings he may have written. Also, being set in Louisiana, the local reader may find familiarity throughout the book, giving them a more intimate connection with the characters and story. I see where some may find parts “unrealistic”, but such is the nature of a fictional novel. The reader gets to peek into the imagination of the author while introducing our own brush strokes of how we perceive it would be like in the “real world” or “our world”, which is part of the joy of reading fiction. Just as each of us are individuals, most stories could hold endless tastes of originality. I believe overall, “Judas the Apostle” was a good read, with solid characters, leaving the reader with wanting more to come. Such is why I have started the sequel “The Last Sicarius”.
Fascinating, original story that I read in one sitting. Beautifully interwoven plot of intrigue, old hurts, reconciliation with both personal heritage and faith. Had the mystery of archaeology with theism, the battle between good and evil, and the simple power that comes from the embrace and love of your true root and where you come from. A mystical, mysterious and thrilling book that was a breath of fresh air in the entire genre of mystery, intrigue, minus the sacrilegious digs at scriptural belief. High readable.
Great novel. Interesting and well written. Holds your interest from start to finish.
I was thoroughly enthralled from the first page. Not only do you learn a great deal of historical information and biblical insight, the plot is compelling and the read is very fast. I highly recommend this book. I give this book a "5" star rating.
Excellent Read. A thriller that kept me interested throughout. A good combination of biblical references, family challenges, and some war history. I also think the author did a good job of describing the numourous locations for the story, such that it almost felt like I was actually there.