The morning sun was now well into its climb high above the Kuwait and Iraq desert. If one were to zoom in on a satellite camera one could detect a speck of green in the vast brown terrain of this region. On closer inspection one could see that this was an oasis - one with a villa upon it between two hills that made it almost undetectable except from the air. This had been one reason Fasif Khadid had chosen this site to build his estate where he was protected and could maneuver between Iraq and the Gulf.
It was also watched by the Legion of the Basilisk. They were well aware Fasif was tracking them. The devil gets around. But what was being discussed this day inside the walls of the Khadid estate was still unknown even to satan himself. The angels had protected this abode and its inhabitants from the ravages of hell. Fasif knew intuitively it would not be much longer that this would remain a refuge. He knew time was running out as the beast closed in on his secretive operatives which were intent on thwarting the goals of the evil one.
Fasif also knew that time was running out and he needed this brash reporter from Texas to understand the scope of the danger. He needed Pat to understand he was needed in the desperate attempt to beat the Legion to the draw for, though no one realized it - even Pat Gallagher this morning - how vital it was that he knew all and understood. The question was would this skeptic reporter believe the tale Fasif was about to divulge? Khadid had no choice. He had to reveal as much as possible to recruit this unlikely ally. Civilization of the known world depended on it.
Dateline: Fasif Khadid's Oasis Villa Estate, November 2, 10:15 a.m.
Pat had settled comfortably into a plush leather chair, wondering where this conversation was leading. He glanced around the room where several classic paintings adorned the walls including one of
the Apostle Thomas putting his hands in the wounds of the Risen Christ. It sent a reminder to Pat, and a shot of remorse for being so skeptical - much like the disciple who doubted. Deep within his subconscious he recalled the biblical words attributed to this scene, "Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet believe." Would he? Could he?
Niki had taken his place to the left of Pat, Fasif to the right as the latter spoke. "What I'm about to tell you is not easy, as you'll come to appreciate, Mr. Gallagher. Nor will it be any easier for you, my dear Niki."
Pat slid his eyes in the direction of Andriopoulos, saw the intensity of the man's own stare and felt his heart sink. The normal philosophically good cheer the Greek wore as a suit of armor was nowhere to be found. From his countenance he seemed as apprehensive as Pat. And Fasif hadn't yet begun.
Fasif sensed this tension. "Before we begin, do you mind if I call you Patrick?"
"Actually, why not just Pat. That's what all my friends call me."
"Very well," Fasif concurred, "Pat it is. And I encourage you to address me as Fasif. Agreed?"
"Fair enough," Pat said, as he reached for another Pall Mall and moved a large glass ashtray on the olive wood end table closer to him. His fidgeting seemed to annoy Niki.
"Now that we're all on friendly terms, Pat, would you be so kind as to listen to Fasif?"
"Deal." Pat nodded.
Fasif took the cue. "You and I, my friends, have become enmeshed in a game of an entirely different sort, a game that has nothing to do with politics per se."
"What sort of game?" asked Pat. His impatience seemingly building like Krakatoa. He wanted the bottom line. Only then would he decide if what this medical examiner had to say was worth sticking around to hear. After all, he had an assignment to do at the Field of Death. Vic was counting on him.
"Impatience will not aid you," Khadid intoned solemnly. He closed his eyes partially and went on, daring either man to interrupt him again. Pat considered it, but held his tongue as Fasif invited both to lean forward while he did the same, bringing their attention to an elegantly rugged chess set made of ivory on the coffee table before them.
"We stand on the threshold of unveiling a game - a deadly game. You might wish to think of it as a variation of the game of chess. In this game, my friends, there are only two players. Two powerful kings. The board upon which the game is played is the world, and each space on that board represents a segment of mankind."
"Pretty high stakes!" Pat couldn't help himself from interrupting.
Fasif only nodded as he continued. "Until now there has been something of an equality in the playing, a give and take between these two powers."
"Kind of a check and balance thing?" Pat chimed in.
Fasif was patient. He knew this American reporter was used to reinforcing points with interruptions so he would tolerate it. "Exactly. Now, however that balance no longer exists. A move has been made, a take-over bid by the king who has heretofore only dominated the black side of the board. The other king is being pushed into retreat."
"You're talkin' 'bout what happened at the Field of Death?" Pat quizzed though he already knew the answer.
"Yes," Fasif continued. "In the wake of the advancing dark king mankind finds itself in an abyss of such depravity that I do not know if it is possible to extricate ourselves from this chasm of such overwhelming fear."
"There's been terrorism around for a long time," Niki offered softly. "Surely that is not unprecedented."
"It is not," Fasif answered. "But I'm not speaking of terrorism as we've known it, or as it has been recorded in written history. That time is passed."
"Meaning?" Pat was urging Fasif to a point.
"Meaning, my impatient friend, this. I speak of a terror that has not yet been glimpsed by the world. Yet, the first tangible tentacles of it are already here for us to see and study...if we but look. It is the inception of the horror of doom, the dread of being caught in the trap we have laid for ourselves over countless centuries."
"What trap?" Pat asked.
"Neglecting the cultivation of good," Fasif confirmed.
Niki was quick to back up Fasif's premise, "The demise of goodness is the yeast for evil to rise."
Fasif nodded his agreement. "Because of our tepid attitude, our ignorance and our sheer laziness, the king of evil, the Antichrist, has come forth."
"Get serious!!!" Pat was incredulous.
"I am, Patrick. Oh, I am. As you shall see for he has seized this time to wrest once and forever - and I emphasize forever - the world unto himself."
"C'mon, Fasif. You've been reading too many occult books lately." Pat was now in a state of denial.
Fasif countered. "Rather, you haven't read enough, Pat, for our eyes and ears have remained closed to the sin afoot on this earth."
"I've got enough skeletons in my own closet to worry about others, Fasif."
"We have dared not let our tongues speak out in an effort to thwart it, my naive Texas friend."
"I don't get it," a perplexed Pat said.
Fasif sought to further explain. "The consequences of our meager actions and our growing aversion have joined together to bring this cataclysmic time to fruition."
"Now I'm really lost." Pat wasn't kidding.
"Niki, Patrick, we have much work ahead of us. Hard work! I, for one, have no intention of letting the Antichrist win without a fight."
Pat was reeling. "Good God, man, are you serious? That's madness, talkin' about an antichrist."
"Which is precisely my point. You, like so many others, Pat, choose not to believe."
"I work with facts not fantasy," Pat tried to justify his journalistic purity.
"You feel than, Patrick, to speak of the Antichrist is to reduce yourself to superstition and ignorance, to revert back to a primitive age?"
Pat sat back, his chest puffing out. "You got that right."
"Wrong!" Fasif brusquely replied. "It's within that frame of mind that the Antichrist has staked a claim. The black king has trumped his pawns."
Niki tried to bring home the point to Pat. "And the Field of Death has truly been our first look at hell?"
"Precisely. This is only the beginning of the manifestation," Khadid correlated, "not the end."
Pat was beside himself as he rose, ready to leave. "I can't believe I'm actually listenin' to this. I've got a job to do and I ain't gettin' no where here. I'm a responsible reporter."
"Then be responsible!" Fasif commanded.
Pat stiffened at Fasif's stern and very serious tone. Niki tried to assuage him. "Please, Pat, hear him out."
Pat reluctantly sat back down, lighting up another cigarette. "Okay, but c'mon, we're in the 21st century. This type of thing..."
It was Fasif's turn to interrupt. "This type of thing can happen. Let me give you some background, Patrick. I think your mind will shift its focus when I'm through."
"Better be good." Pat was daring him as Niki sought the calm.
"Perhaps, Fasif, we should wait for another time to-"
"Time is of the essence, my friends. We must trust each other. We have no other choice. No. The time is now."
"Then I for one am ready," Andriopoulos chimed in, hoping to convince Pat.
Fasif continued with an urgency to his demeanor. "As I mentioned, my position in this government has been long established. I have witnessed a lifetime of war, poverty and destruction here and in other countries. It has prepared me to be more perceptive to other evils that have cropped up around the world...to seemingly unrelated events."
"I'm still waitin', Fasif."
"You Americans are so impatient," Niki chastised Pat.
"Pat, Niki, it leads to events that, at first glance seemed unconnected. Except they all reflect man's lowest nature. Yet, so easy an explanation I could not accept."
"Good. Cuz I wouldn't accept it either." Pat's interruption was ignored by Niki and Fasif as the latter continued.
"I began to search, to study, to assemble the facts until a pattern emerged. A link."
"So what was it?" Pat asked.
Fasif had arisen and moved to his side to a large glass terrarium where he extracted a creature. "This!"
Pat couldn't believe his eyes. "A damn lizard?!?"
The olive-skinned host placed the lizard back in its walled habitat where it scurried under a rock, and Fasif returned to his chair. "Yes, a damn lizard. Documents, records and photographs were studied, interviews conducted with those who had been involved."
"Involved with what?"
"In some of the more notable events over the past half century and well before that as well."
"Oh, yeah, like an evil plot." Pat retorted mockingly.
Niki, remanded him, "Patrick, patience is a virtue...for all of us!"
Fasif resumed. "Our first break came when..."
As Fasif continued to identify various events from the French Revolution on, Pat's demeanor changed as he listened intently, often incredulously, but nevertheless hooked on the fascinating, unbelievable story his host was revealing to him. It was vital for Pat to understand and believe. His very life depended on it.
Chronologically Fasif wove more vividly for Pat and Niki the quilt of terror that had been wreaked on mankind. The fabric of his story was one of unspeakable terrorism, war, covert actions, country against country, man against man, brother against brother, son against father, daughter against mother. Most of it Gallagher and Andriopoulos were familiar with, for each had kept abreast of world events, just as the majority of the population had. But what they had not realized, what Fasif and his few allies had managed to piece together revolved around a group of disciples who had devised, organized and carried out these nefarious plots to upset the balance of power and peace in the world. In the ensuing chaos their master the Antichrist had gained more and more power. The threads of the story were strong, interwoven so cleverly that it would have been impossible to extricate one strand from another. They were all connected Pat and Niki realized. From the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the devastating collapse of the World Trade Towers in 2001 and most recently the total destruction of Jerusalem. In every incident the connection belonged to the king of sin.
Next: PART II: The Smoldering FIFTH CHAPTER, Episode Five
"White Smoke, Black Fire!" is an original work, registered with the Writers' Guild and all rights are the exclusive rights of The DAILY CATHOLIC who owns the copyright. Because of the nature of the internet and the importance of sharing, we hereby give the reader permission to collect and disseminate by e-mail each episode as it is presented in each issue of The DAILY CATHOLIC, provided that one includes this 1986, 2001 copyright statement and source - www.DailyCatholic.org - and take nothing out of context, nor reproduce it for profit. This work, seventeen years in the making, is a work of fiction that replicates the reality of today in many ways. However names, characters, places and incidents are used fictionally and any resemblance to actual persons and events, except those recorded in history, are purely coincidental.