As promised, now delivered. I'm proud to present to you a sneak peek of the first chapter of the third and final book in the Deepest Darkness series "Rising from the Darkness."
Chapter 1 – The End Draws Near
The constant echo of drill and hammer gradually abated as construction in the tunnels neared completion. For the first time in over a year, the hundreds of workers crammed into the elaborate underground chambers thinned out as transports home began.
Pablo Hernandez looked forward to a solid night’s sleep without the accompanying chatter of noise from twenty-four hour rotations. There was then the chance to dream of Maria’s outstretched arms waiting back in Peru, to imagine the softness of her skin against his. Once he arrived home, Pablo looked forward to seeing her dark eyes widen in surprise at the fatness of his wallet.
After they paid up, that is.
Everything had been sent back to Maria at the end of each month, a fraction of the promised payout. But the big windfall was coming. As one of the lucky few to have stayed until the very end, he’d receive the remainder of his salary plus a bonus. The amount would be enough to care for his family long into the foreseeable future, at least according to Peruvian standards. Now all he had to do was collect his money and return home – without getting caught by the United States government.
Maybe he was a poor, uneducated man, but Pablo knew well enough the company had transported hundreds of Peruvians to work on these tunnels at a pittance – and they were all in America without a visa. Well technically under America, Chicago from what he’d picked up in conversation. However, immigration officials wouldn’t care about technicalities if they were captured.
It had pained him to see the sleek train disappear from the station time and time again, knowing those passengers were that much closer to safety. But his chance loomed. The line of the last remnants pressed forward as the train eased into the station. The doors opened and slowly the human chain entered two-by-two like animals into Arca de Noe.
A chill swept over Pablo as he paused near one of the guards, the hard stare surveying his name badge before scratching one Pablo Hernandez off the clipboard list as if erasing him from existence. Everything about this company was eerily meticulous. If they could have understood one another, Pablo would have told the guard that no one wanted to be left behind in the dreary underground. But everyone had a job to do – and he’d finally finished his.
The tunnels were forgotten as Pablo entered the train, greeted by muted purples and yellows amid the royal luxury. Plush seating wrapped him in comfort as he sat down into the assigned chair near the front of the second car. The ache he’d carried in his joints for months eased as he sank into the warm cushion. Through the excited chatter, Maria called from his dreams as Pablo lay against the headrest and drifted to sleep before they even left the station.
Grogginess clouded his mind as Pablo was jarred awake. It felt like he’d only been asleep five minutes before the guards roused and commanded them to exit the train. Pablo shuffled along with the others, concern growing as to why they were getting off already. Was there a problem with the train? Had they even left the station?
Low murmurs rose as they stepped from the railcar. A faint sour stench filtered through the air. Maybe bat guano. Several men were separated from the pack and returned to the train while the remainder of the herd pressed forward. The stark white surroundings suggested a much older area than what they’d finished building, so this wasn’t the same station they’d just left. It certainly wasn’t where they’d originally embarked on their journey from South America either.
As they rounded a corner and entered a large room, a more pleasant aroma replaced the first. Long tables were lined with platters of steak, chicken, roasted potatoes and surrounded by any number of other delicious treats. Saliva filled his mouth in anticipation of this home-going feast. Murmurs of suspicion were replaced with whoops and hollers of excitement as plates filled to overflowing.
Pablo ate until sated. Then he ate some more. Pablo tossed a half-eaten corn cob onto his plate then stared as a tall redhead strut into the room. Long legs appeared to go on forever in the tight black jumpsuit and ended at rounded hips all topped off by an ample bosom – the first woman he’d seen in months. His manhood ached.
Ah, Maria, I hope you are ready for a wild homecoming ride.
The woman appeared to be in charge as the surrounding guards straightened and then congregated around her. When she leaned in to whisper to one of the tallest, Pablo imagined Maria’s lips pressed to his ear. He couldn’t get home to his wife fast enough.
All eyes were on the redhead as she finished her conversation and strode from the makeshift cafeteria, pulling the steel doors shut behind her. The clang resonated in the air like the bell before a fighting match. With effort, Pablo drew his gaze away.
Just in time.
The guards raised their weapons. The chatter of automatic gunfire peppered the room. Row after row of workers were mowed down before they even knew what hit them. Pablo saw the coming onslaught and ducked a split second ahead of the others. Searing burn razed his flesh as bullets penetrated his shoulder before he slid beneath the table. Other bodies littered the area beside him, blood streaming in rivers across the drab, white floor. Pablo closed his eyes to the horror and bit his tongue to quell the pain – and his screams.
As suddenly as it had started, the carnage ended. Booted footsteps clomped among the slaughter. Doors opened then clanged shut. Pablo waited in the unnatural calm to ensure the guards had left before slowly opening his tear-filled eyes.
Growing up, he’d witnessed firsthand the aftermath of rogue militia forces. Pablo wanted to curl up in fear like the young boy he once was as he stared at bodies nearly cut in half by bullets, faces shattered beyond recognition, bloodied matter mingled with bits of bone.
He was swimming in all of it.
Pablo stumbled to his feet. The food he’d just eaten joined the carnage, pain shooting along his arm with each wretch. With an empty stomach once again and blood dripping from his fingers, Pablo crossed himself with only one thought and prayer.
Mon Dios, let me see my Maria again.
Lieutenant Hassan Zafir led the small contingent through the Sa’dabad Palace labyrinth. The luxury and history of the great Iranian palace complex never ceased to send a twinge of excitement through his mind. Who would have believed the son of a poor family would find his way into the palace halls as a presidential military attaché?
Excitement tempered as Zafir remembered today’s purpose. This would likely be his final march through the corridors and past the rooms of the Special Castle with the leader. As one his unit turned the corner into the office, snapped their shoes together, then raised arms in salute.
“President Mohuzari,” Zafir began, “the car is waiting if you are ready, sir.”
Sayyed Ali Mohuzari lifted dark, angry eyes to meet Zafir’s gaze and rose from the blue settee with the grace of a military bearing. The president’s Persian ancestry was dwarfed by his height as he towered above every man in the escort unit. Mohuzari would have made an impressive leader in the IRGC. As it was, he’d made an imposing president of the Iranian people. But time in that office was short lived.
Mohuzari rested a hand upon Zafir’s shoulder as he lowered his arm. “Lieutenant Zafir, you have been a trusted ally in the fight against Western ideals invading our ways and those of our neighbors. I hope my successor finds it in his heart to keep you close at hand as well.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The guards surrounded Mohuzari as they escorted him down the hallway with Zafir leading directly in front. Staff lined the corridor as they came to the portico. Zafir stiffened, his eyes darting from face to face to detect any malevolent purposes. Mohuzari’s voice carried urgently behind him.
“The Supreme Leader will not stand for a softening of our stance against Israel’s occupation. Behazzadad must understand the only thing he will accomplish by pursuing such ends will be to bring down an assassin’s bullet on his head.”
The remainder of Zafir’s regiment lined the outdoor steps leading from the palace to the waiting motorcade. As the group exited the safety of the doorway, his men saluted, their movements sharp and crisp in the morning air. Behind him, Zafir felt Mohuzari’s tight smile of satisfaction. Compliments would flow later, but for now Zafir kept his eyes and ears trained toward any unusual movement or sound.
Wind blew through the towering plane trees. Murmurs rose in the distance from crowds gathered near Zaferaniyeh Gate. Uniform swords clinked in unison as they descended. The unmistakable spit of a gun resounded.
Zafir jerked around and tackled Mohuzari amid cries of alarm. Blood and brain matter clouded his vision in an instant. Concrete steps battered his face, breaking his nose and sending a rush of blood down the front of his uniform and involuntary tears into his eyes. But Zafir no longer needed to see to know the truth.
Iranian President, Sayyed Ali Mohuzari, was dead.