Savior's Day is a work of fiction taken out of today's headlines. Cardinal Arnold Ford, head of the Archdiocese of New York, witnesses a murder on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral. With the old man's dying breath, he hands the Cardinal a sliver of ancient parchment to keep and protect. What follows is a tale woven from an open case that Israel's vaunted spy agency, the Mossad, is afraid to solve. What do they fear? How can the lost pages of an ancient treasure threaten the very existence of the State of Israel?
LeShana Thompkins, the NYPD detective assigned to the homicide, interviews Cardinal Ford. As the investigation unfolds, LeShana is conflicted whether to reveal secrets about the priest's past that his adopted missionary parents hid from him. Ford is stunned. He learns from the Detective who his biological father was, what role his father played in history, and how his own DNA primes the priest for the challenge of a lifetime: to broker a Middle East Peace agreement.
Savior's Day is by turns a suspense thriller that fictionalizes history into a modern-day drama that will keep you at the proverbial edge of your seat. Surprise after surprise leaps off the pages, based on true facts that will amaze.
Move over DaVinci Code, Savior's Day has arrived!
Jericho lay prostrate, left elbow on the flat stone rimming the roof, gunstock against his shoulder, the barrel under the barb wired encircling the building, finger on the trigger, pulse at a steady fifty-six beats. All that was required was the missing Element who was now approaching the East Gate of Jerusalem's old city. By some, it was aptly referred to as the Gate of Mercy.
Across the way, hidden in a minaret all thought safe, secure, and unoccupied, Zakkarhia ibn Mohammed took aim. In moments he would put a hole through the madness centered around these absurd missing pages written on ancient parchment.
And then it happened. Two shots rang out. Pandemonium erupted. In the spit of a flash, soldiers rushed to form a tight ring around the Trinity plus Two. It was too late.
The indelible, unchangeable, irrevocable act occurred on what would be forever known as Savior's Day.
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Read an Excerpt
By Alan A. Winter
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Alan A. Winter
All rights reserved.
Jericho Glassman shrugged into the Israeli soldier's camouflage fatigues and assumed the dead man's post. A glance skyward. There was no sign that the thick overcast clouds would break up anytime soon. He was thankful for the grey veil of cover, assured that his presence had a better chance of going undetected.
At least he'd be safe for a while, and a while was all the time he needed.
Jericho snatched the telescopic sight he had hidden inside the AC condenser weeks earlier and jiggled it onto the mounting of the dead man's rifle. He couldn't believe his luck when he went unchallenged onto the roof the first time. He had scaled the stairs with the authority of belonging there, found the door to the roof locked which slowed him down in the time it takes to muscle open a stubborn jar, and then stood akimbo staring at the Wailing Wall. The Wall was a two thousand year old ochre-colored brick edifice built of Jerusalem limestone only a short sprint away.
"It must happen at the Wall," the Voices urged him. Commanded him. He had been hearing them from time to time, but in recent weeks, the frequency had increased. The Voices gave guidance. Comfort. They gave him strength when he needed it and greater focus.
It was time to set matters right.
Jericho did not challenge the Voices or ask, "Why?" He knew why. It started here, and it must end here. In Jerusalem. At the Wailing Wall. Where the Second Temple once stood. The logic was impeccable. The Voices were always right.
Now, an unexpected turn of events would enable him to complete his mission. Their mission. The Voices' mission for him. For without Jericho Glassman, what would happen to the world? Who would reset the balance back to right?
Standing there, with only time ticking between him and destiny, Jericho peered at the ancient stones first assembled by King Solomon, then destroyed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar more than five hundred years before Christ, only to be rebuilt at the behest of Cyrus the Great and completed during the reign of Darius the Great. It stood as a symbol of the Jewish people for another four hundred and twenty years until the Roman, Titus, squashed the Jewish uprising and destroyed the Temple for the last time some thirty years after the crucifixion.
Empire after empire, conquest after conquest, oppressive rulers and benevolent ones, Jericho's people survived. Somewhere along the way, the Jews lost control of their most important landmark, the Temple Mount. That was scheduled to change. It was part of the Voices' agenda.
"The Muslims have controlled it too long," said the Voices.
"What do you want me to do?" he asked.
He listened with rapture as they detailed each step. The Voices left it to Jericho to determine the time and place. The what and why were already decided.
It happened a few weeks back. It was a sunny day in Ashkelon, with blue skies and a gentle breeze coming off the water. Jericho was sitting at Fisenzone, a small restaurant at the marina. The waitress had just placed a coffee Americano, black, when he opened the Israel Post. There, staring back at him in bold, black letters was the missing piece needed to complete his mission.
They would all be gathered in same place.
Get to Jerusalem and the deed would be done.
He looked about, wanting to share the good news with the Voices. No need. They already knew.
Now, tucked low on the roof, peering through the telescopic mount, Jericho scanned white paper fluffs wedged between the ancient stones, messages to God exhorting His good will, praying for wealth or good health or some other meaningless wish. It was a ritual repeated millions of times by millions of souls seeking His favor. His forgiveness. His beneficence.
"They're all fools," mocked the Voices. Jericho agreed.
He didn't need the scope to see the rest. On a normal day, the routine never changed.
Men to the right; women to the left. A fence between them.
Prayer shawls. Headscarves. Black hats. Yarmulkes.
Short and tall. Light and dark-skinned. Young and old. They came by the busload, wheeled in chairs, hobbling on canes. Black frocks and paisley shirts.
Countless bar mitzvahs from America. Men circling a lectern that sported a Torah, the Five Books of Moses. Some with phylacteries wrapped around their left arm; a black box strapped to their forehead containing sacred prayers. A rabbi and a freshly scrubbed thirteen year old soon to become a man.
This and more, at the Wall, every day.
But not today. Today was special.
Jericho was the one they chose; the Voices anointed him.
The day at hand, getting this close to his penultimate goal had been child's play; escaping would take all his cunning. In minutes, his years of training and resourcefulness would be put to the test. And while Jericho was not a religious man – religion has been beaten and ripped out of him years back – he prayed for a steady hand and a clear shot.
The darkened skies hung low, an accomplice to the plan.
Jericho drew in a deep breath and then exhaled long and slow, squeezing a flicker of rising jitters out into the still air. Controlled chaos was in front of him, surrounded him, but for Jericho, the air was still. Even quiet. Nirvana would soon be at hand.
He drew in another steadying breath; his pulse dropped to forty-five beats per minute.
He was ready.
Cheers and shouting erupted across the Temple Mount.
The moment drew near.
While Jericho was not able to view the Man's progress, he was apprised of every solemn step the Man took. Twenty minutes earlier, an informant who had been an Army buddy, texted that the package had been plucked from the limousine and handed to him. The Man embraced it to his chest and began the walk of all walks that would be etched in history, perhaps the equal of when another, at another time, carried a cross on his walk.
But this walk was different. Glorious. Triumphant. The Man was bringing home the package.
Then a surprise to all: the Man made an unscheduled stop. Maybe it was to gather strength for what he was about to do? Maybe it was to contemplate all that it meant? Did he have doubts? Fear? Maybe they picked the wrong person.
Droplets formed on Jericho's upper lip. He told himself to wait, to be patient. Jericho waited for a text from a two-bit accomplice that the Man was on the move again. He waited. His palms grew slippery. With care, he wiped each on a pant leg, careful not to attract attention.
Maybe the Man was overwhelmed? Unable to continue?
The Voices wouldn't like that.
A vibration, a text, a glance, and the mission were back on track.
The Man now edged his way toward the Muslim cemetery. The graveyard had been installed there to prevent pious Jewish priests, forbidden from ever entering a cemetery, from passing through it and gaining access to the oldest gate of the city wall. To insure no such transgression could occur, Suleiman the Magnificent sealed the entrance with massive stones more than five hundred years earlier. It was sealed to prevent this day, but now it was open. A miracle in itself.
This Man holding the package is both pious and religious, and yet the cemetery he must walk through will not deter him. The Man turned left and made his way through the headstones at the foot of the Golden Gate that were forbidden to high priests. The Man was a high priest, but of a different kind.
Had it been another time, Jericho would have stepped back and pointed out the symmetry that was unfolding on the world's great stage in front of him. The Scriptures. History. Prophecies. A Holy Place. A Communion in God's Temple. His Temple. All had been in play once before ... and then destroyed forever. Or so they thought.
Jericho would change all that, the Voices told him so. There was a time the Voices did not speak to him, a time when Jericho went his own way, not knowing his true mission. But then the Voices appeared and foretold of this day, and what he had to do. And when they told him, he knew why he had been so challenged, why the ones he loved had been snatched away, why he had been tested and tested, and then tested again. Jericho was chosen for his inner strength, and for his convictions. The Voices told him all this and more.
Jericho heard voices below. Everyday voices. He glanced down and permitted a slight upturn of his bluish lips. A quiver of a smile. How poetic. No, thought Jericho, poetic was not the word. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
Biblical, was more appropriate.
He might even take liberty with words, certain that some would come to refer to his mission as "Messianic."
With the benefit of time and hindsight, history might anoint this special day as apocalyptic. Witnesses would describe what they saw, what they were certain happened on this day. Some might get it right and be accurate historians; others would have their eyes play tricks on them. In time, they would see the truth because Jericho was there to guide them. The Voices told him that, too.
Cheers jackknifed his attention to the moment at hand. He stole a nervous glance behind him, to reassure himself that the dead Israeli soldier remained slumped behind the wire-reinforced skylight. Lifeless.
Jericho chastised himself for the time it took to turn his head, the brief lapse that a dead man could still be a threat to him. To Jericho's success. To the bidding of the Voices. To the Master Plan. The soldier was heavier than he thought. Stealing up the stairs, the soundless steps, and garrote around his neck ... those were the easy parts. Dragging the heavy body proved tougher than he had anticipated. And wrestling the soldier's clothes off worked up quite a sweat. Jericho never liked to sweat. For him, it was a display of weakness, of yielding to elements not in his control. But everything was in his control now. Everything. Life. Fate. History.
All controlled by an index finger.
Jericho replayed in his mind what happen in the next moments, and then how he would escape this place. He anticipated no difficulties. With the soldier now a lump of decaying protoplasm, and with a clear path to the roof door, Jericho would slip down the stairs, slip from the building and blend into the chaos that would follow, chaos that he had caused.
And what chaos it would be!
Chaos the world never thought could happen because of every precaution taken to protect this day. To make it sacred and holy to all. Jericho was prepared to leap over the barbed wire in some off chance that the route down the steps was blocked. People had been known to survive high falls. Maybe he would be the lucky one today.
Others were targeted for death this day.
But if becoming a martyr was necessary to accomplish his mission, Jericho was prepared to sacrifice his life in order to change the course of history for the rest of all time.
To correct the ills that had befallen his people. All people.
Reckoning was around the corner.
A cross the dry and sultry way, on the Temple Mount, Zakkarhia ibn Mohammed shifted his weight. In preparation for this day, he had slipped into the Al Aqsa Mosque the day before, to pray as he had done countless times in mosques all over the world. Yesterday was different. When everyone left the mosque the night before, he remained. Zakkarhia had climbed into the tall minaret, curled up on his prayer mat, and had the most restful sleep he had known in years. And what years they had been from the time he left his family in Gaza, to his return as a prodigal son. So much had changed there. And not for the better.
Now this. His final mission.
The sanctity of this place on earth, what is now called the Temple Mount, was not lost to Zakkarhia. This is the very place where the angel Gabriel guided Muhammad through the eastern gate, known by Muslims as the Gate of the Prophet, to the Sacred Rock that was at the center of Solomon's Temple. Here, Muhammad performed his prayer-prostrations in the holiest of holy places, in the spiritual center of the world where Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and, later, Jesus had also once prayed. Finished praying, Muhammad stood and then, guided by Gabriel, mounted his white steed, Buraq, and ascended through the celestial dimensions where he witnessed the delights of Paradise. He passed through the seven heavens to stand in the presence of Allah where, like Moses on Mt. Sinai, he received instruction as to the prayers his followers were to perform.
Muhammad was the messenger for Allah. So was Zakkarhia.
In a few hours, it would be Zakkarhia's time to reach Paradise, to make this his day of Resurrection ... once he did Allah's bidding. His mission was doubly sweet, for it would also serve as the ambrosia of revenge. An eye for an eye.
Reverie aside, Zakkarhia needed to exercise caution and wait until the moment arrived, and to make certain that the caretaker of the mosque, the muezzin who called the believers to prayer, had left for the evening.
A click echoed from below. Metal against metal. Zakkarhia slumped against the cold wall. Though empty of worshippers, the Holy Shrine was sealed drum-tight. Now nothing stood in his way from fulfilling the mission that would gain him entrance through the Gates of Paradise.
Morning came. Secure in knowing that no one would be coming to the mosque that day due to the heightened security measures, he still tiptoed down from the minaret, voided in the latrine, and then unrolled his mat to pray. He prayed that his mission would meet with success. He prayed that the Infidel would leave his peoples' land. He prayed for his sister Aliah. He prayed to Mohammed for strength of heart and sureness of hand.
As the time drew near, he snaked his way back to the top of the minaret, ripped off the gray duct tape holding the parts to the disassembled rifle he had planted along the molding in the days leading up to this day, and assembled his rifle.
* * *
Two gunman, one Jewish the other Muslim, from different backgrounds and different beliefs, shared much in common on this day. Both were driven. Both shared an overlapping mission.
Would their parallel universes coalesce into one?
Did a common bond link the two?
A common goal?
A common target?
Had anyone sighted either of them from afar, they might have noted exposed weapons, they might have noted the direction each was aiming at, and they might have noted the obvious: Zakkarhia to the south, and Jericho to the west both pointed rifles at those gathered at the open area next to the golden covered, Dome of the Rock.
No one could be blamed for thinking the two worked in concert.
A team of assassins.
But the outside observer would have drawn the wrong conclusion: neither man knew the other existed.
No matter. In a few short minutes, the world would discover who both were.
In a few short minutes, the world would discover their truths, truths they would all have to face. Consequences they would have to live with.
* * *
Jericho screwed the rifle into a short, stubby tripod and planted it on the roof ledge, careful not to have it protrude and call attention. He examined the Zeiss telescopic sight; it was flush to the mountings and aligned to the barrel. He checked for parallax. He fanned the rifle from side to side, his eye glued to the site: the crosshair stood fast. He caressed the smooth metal, pleased that it would be dead-on at one hundred meters, and accurate enough beyond that for the task he needed. Even with the ring of security circling the world's most important leaders, no one would question an Israeli soldier's gun barrel poised at the ready.
The time neared.
Jericho lay prostrate, left elbow on the flat stone rimming the roof, gunstock against his shoulder, the barrel under the barb wired that encircled the building, finger on the trigger, pulse at a steady fifty-six beats. All that was required was the missing Element that would complete the Holy Pentacle. And that Element was approaching the East Gate of the old city that was sometimes referred to as the Golden Gate or Gate of Mercy by Jews.
Jericho had once taken a city tour, where the guide described The Golden Gate as the portal through which Christ entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
"Isn't this where Christ is supposed to return," Jericho asked.
"If you believe that he was the Messiah, then yes. But this portal is also important to the Muslims," the guide answered. "This is where the last Day of Judgment will occur when Mohammed returns to earth." The guide pointed upward. "Mohammed will sit on top and judge all those who pass through."
"Then if it is such an important spot, why is it sealed?"
"It can't be that important," answered the guide, "or the Muslims would have left it open. Don't you agree?"
Excerpted from SAVIOR'S DAY by Alan A. Winter. Copyright © 2013 Alan A. Winter. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc..
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