Here is the first chapter of The Magus Covenant – Book 1 in The Jotham Fletcher Mystery Thriller Series. It is available at all Amazon outlets. 3 more books in the series have already been released.
Every year they commemorated the grisly death. The Leader had made the annual pilgrimage for two thousand years.
The service was always conducted in secret, at midnight on the same date in the last month of autumn.
The two men sneaked into the church of Santa Francesca Romana, beside the Roman Forum, and climbed to the top of the campanile, the belltower that was built in the thirteenth century. It was added to a tenth century church that was built on top of an earlier chapel and, before that, a Roman temple. A great city never stays the same and now the building was dedicated to Saint Frances of Rome.
The current Leader wore a voluminous black robe and limped because of his arthritic knee, the inevitable consequence of being almost sixty. He was with Nathan, who looked like a nightclub bouncer: thickset, with crew cut hair and deathly white skin. Dressed, as always, in a cheap black suit.
They reached the top of the tower and looked out at the view of Rome. The tourists and locals had long since gone to bed or retreated somewhere warm and cosy, perhaps to an area where there were bars and restaurants. The two men felt as if they were alone, which is how they wanted it.
“I will recite some of the mantra,” said Nathan. He had followed the mantra for twelve years and knew it all by heart. “Strive to reach the middle distance. A male female energy unites us all, for there is no difference between power and thought.”
He did not understand the meaning, but they told him one day he would have the knowledge.
“Such a wonderful view of the Colosseum,” said the Leader. “This is where he fell. Imagine it then, when all these ruins were intact.”
“Why don’t you climb up to the spire?”
“I’m not as young as I used to be. But I could try, with your help.”
Nathan had more strength than most men. The older man gave a few moans and groans but five minutes later they were both on the small tiled roof. They held on tight to the two-metre cross in the centre. There was no alternative because the square, sloping roof was as slippery as ice.
“Incredible,” said the Leader. “We have done it, Nathan, for another year. Now back down again. I think I’ll need a stiff drink after this.”
“Fly, fly like Simon Magus.”
“What do you mean?” There was no fear in his voice, only a polite request for an explanation. He trusted Nathan – the poor, stupid young man who always gave him blind obedience.
Nathan picked up the Leader and hurled him into the air, over the side and into the darkness.
“Stop it, no!” he screamed, but there was no one to help him.
Nathan heard a dull thud and a groan that lasted for thirty seconds, one that told of immeasurable, unbearable pain.
And then there was silence.
Her phone buzzed at midnight and that woke him up. Everything about his life had changed overnight. The beautiful Italian woman in his bed was an extra bonus he had not expected. She said he was handsome. Said he was tall and his eyebrows were not too thick and his eyes were intense. He had straight teeth with a warm smile. Thank goodness for that. In his job he needed to smile all the time.
Jotham Fletcher paced the floor like a tiger trapped in a cage. There was just enough light for him to see the sumptuous interior of his hotel room in the St Regis Rome. There were paintings and frescoes on the wall, and the room was decorated in hues of blue, red and gold, with inlaid wooden furniture and a velvet armchair.
The visit to Rome was her suggestion and she had booked the accommodation. “It would be such a coup for you, Jotham,” she said.
He thought that sounded like a great opportunity, and who knew where it might lead? Antonella Pavoni was brilliant and well respected. And she had been so helpful that he could not say no.
Two years ago, his faith was buried with his wife and baby, Jane and William. He tried to search for it but it would not come back. That was unfortunate, because Reverend Jotham Fletcher was an Anglican priest.
Right now, the parish in Australia where he worked as the rector seemed a million miles away. St John the Baptist Anglican Church was the oldest church in Canberra, the nation’s capital city. Built of sandstone in 1845 with two lychgates and its own small graveyard, it was reminiscent of a little church in an English village.
“Jotham, you are all right, no?” asked Antonella.
He crawled back into bed and ran his fingers through her long, dark hair. “How could I not be all right, with you here?”
“Sorry to wake you up. That was a message from an old friend of mine in the UK. Iago is brilliant, but he never takes any notice of the time.”
“I’ll forgive him if he’s a friend of yours.”
“Remind me to teach you Italian. It’s so much easier than English.”
“I’ll be free tomorrow afternoon,” he said as he touched her lips with his fingertips.
“Benissimo. Excellent. And in the morning you’ll be a star.”
“You’re a flatterer. I’ll probably send everyone to sleep.”
“They will love it. Honestly, mio caro.”
“What does that mean?”
A knot tightened in his stomach. Those were the words he used whenever he spoke to Jane and he was not sure if he could say them to someone else. But perhaps he would not feel guilty if he said the words in another language. “Mio caro,” he said, with a less-than-perfect accent.
“Excellent. But there is one major problem. To a lady you say mia cara.”
“Bene. That is very good.”
Jotham jogged five miles every morning to distract his mind. But tomorrow he wanted to stay with Antonella and then give his lecture at the church.
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