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August 30, 2006 Branwyn Island, Guadeloupe

The private and CORPORATE jets began arriving on Branwyn Island fifteen miles south of Basse-Terre, one of the main islands of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. Exotically designed minibuses with luxurious interiors and painted lavender pulled up to the aircraft to accommodate the passengers. After putting their luggage in the trunk, the drivers transported the travelers to elegant suites in a palatial belowground sanctuary that was only open to private guests of Specter. All those who departed the aircraft were women. None were accompanied by friends or business associates. They all arrived alone.

The last plane to arrive landed at six o’clock in the evening. It was the familiar Beriev Bc-210 of the Specter Corporation, which touched down at six o’clock in the evening. Specter, the only male to make an appearance, lumbered down the boarding steps, his great belly barely squeezing through the door. He was followed by a body carried on a stretcher that was completely covered by a blanket. Specter, wearing his signature white suit, then settled into the rear seat and poured himself a glass of Beaujolais from the bar.

The driver, who had chauffeured Specter on other occasions, was always amazed at how someone so gross could move so agilely. He stood for a moment and watched with curiosity as the form on the stretcher was unceremoniously shoved into the open bed of a pickup truck, without any consideration for the heavy rain that began to fall.

On the south end of the island, a bowl shaped like a sunken cauldron one hundred yards in diameter had been carved into the rock and coral. The concave depression had been hollowed out to a depth of thirty feet, deep enough so no passing boats or ships could observe any activities.

Inside the cauldron, thirty tall shafts of stone thirteen feet high stood evenly spaced three feet apart. It was a copy of the famous mystical monolithic structure known as Stonehenge, which means stone circle. The shafts were six and a half feet wide and three feet thick. Their tapered tops supported ten-and-a-half-foot lintels, shaped to the curve of the circle.

The inner horseshoe-shaped circle known as the Trilithons contained five towering stones with their own lintels. Unlike the hard-grained sandstone of the original structure in England that was built between 2550 and 1600 B.C., these were cut from black lava rock.

The main difference between the old and the new structures was a huge block of marble carved and contoured like a sarcophagus. It was elevated nearly ten feet off the ground within the inner horseshoe profile and reached by steps leading up to a landing that encircled its walls ornately carved with the galloping Horse of Uffington.

At night hidden lights illuminated the interior of the bowl in lavender-colored streams that swirled around the shafts, while a single set of laser beams spaced around the outer circle soared into the nighttime sky. They were turned on briefly early in the evening before blinking out.

A few minutes before midnight, as if by command, the rain stopped. When the lights flashed on again, the floor of the center of the Trilithons was enhanced by thirty women in dresses draped like shawls and rippled with folds. Known as a peplos, from the ancient Greek, the voluminous dresses covered their legs and feet and came in a rainbow of colors with no two the exact same hue. Long red hairpieces adorned their heads as flecks of silver sparkled on their faces, necks and open arms. The silver makeup gave their facial features a masklike effect, making them all appear as if they might have been sisters of the same blood.

They all stood silent, staring at a figure stretched on the block of marble. It was a man. All that could be seen of him was the upper half of his face. His body, chin and mouth were tightly wrapped in black silk. He appeared to be in his late fifties, with a mass of graying hair. The nose and chin were sharp, with suntanned, heavily lined features. His eyes were wide and bulging as they darted around the lights and the tops of the columns. Seemingly adhered to the marble slab, he could not move nor turn his head. His only line of vision was upward, as he stared in terror at the laser beam piercing the black sky above him.

Suddenly, the swirling lights darkened while the lasers around the marble remained on. In a minute the lights spiraled on again. For a moment it seemed that nothing had changed, but then a woman had magically appeared in a gold peplos. Her head was covered by a mass of flame-red hair, long and shiny, that fell in a loose cascade to her hips. The skin on her face, neck and arms had pearl white luster. She was slim, with a body whose shape flared with perfection. With feline grace, she walked up the stairs to the marble block that was now recognized as an altar.

She raised her arms and began to chant: “O daughters of Odysseus and Circe, may life be taken from those who are not worthy. Intoxicate yourself with wealth and the spoils of men who attempt to enslave us. Seek not men without wealth and power. And when they are found, exploit, dispel their desires, plunder their treasures and step into their world.”

Then all the women raised their arms and chanted: “Great is the sisterhood for we are the pillars of the world, great are the daughters of Odysseus and Circe for their path is glorified.”

The chant was repeated, swelling in volume before dropping almost to whispers as their arms were lowered.

The woman standing before the terrified man on the marble altar reached beneath the folds of her gown, produced a dagger and raised it above her head. The other women moved up the steps and surrounded what was about to become a pagan sacrifice. As one, they also produced daggers and held them high.

The woman who bore the image of a high priestess chanted: “Here lies one who should not have been born.”

Then she plunged her dagger into the chest of the horrified man bound on the altar. Lifting the dagger with blood streaming from the blade, she stepped aside as the other women came one after the other and drove their daggers into the helpless man.

The circle of women moved down the steps and stood beneath the columns, holding the bloody daggers as if presenting them as gifts. There was an eerie silence for several moments until they all chanted: “Under the gaze of our gods, we triumph.”

Then the laser beams and the swirling rays blinked out, leaving the pagan temple of murder in the black of the night.

The following day, the business world was stunned by the news that publishing mogul Westmoreland Hall was presumed dead after swimming off the reef of his luxurious beach house estate in Jamaica and vanishing. Hall went for his usual morning swim alone. He was known to swim beyond the reef into deeper water and allow the surf to return him to shore though a narrow channel. It is not known whether Hall drowned, was attacked by a shark or died of natural causes, since his body went undiscovered after an extensive search by Jamaican officials. His obituary read:

Founder of a mining empire that owned the world’s major reserves of platinum and the other five metals in its group in New Zealand, Hall was a hard-driving executive who established his success by taking over the mines when they were on the verge of bankruptcy and turning them into profit makers before borrowing against them for new acquisitions in Canada and Indonesia. A widower who lost his wife in a car accident three years previously, Hall leaves a son, Myron, who is a successful artist, and a daughter, Rowena, who, as executive vice president, will become board chairman and take over the day-to-day management of the conglomerate.

Amazingly, according to most Wall Street economists, stock in Hall Enterprises rose ten points after word spread of his presumed death. In most circumstances when the head of a large corporation dies, the stock falls, but brokers reported heavy buying by several unknown speculators. Most mining experts predict that Rowena Westmoreland will sell her father’s holdings to the Odyssey Corporation, since it is known that Odyssey’s founder, Mr. Specter, has made an offer above and beyond any other mining conglomerate’s bid.

A memorial service will be held for friends and family at Christ-church Cathedral on Wednesday next at 2:00 P.M.

Ten days later an item appeared in the business sections of the world’s leading newspapers:

Mr. Specter of the Odyssey Corporation has purchased the Hall Mining Company for an undisclosed sum from the late Westmoreland Hall’s family. Chairman and major stockholder Rowena Westmoreland will continue to run day-to-day operations as chief executive officer.

There was no mention that all the processed platinum ore was now being purchased by Ling Ho Limited in Beijing and shipped in Chinese cargo ships to an industrial center on the coast of Fukien Province.

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