Prologue

His ears pounded with the rumble of horses’ hooves. De la Jacob gagged in the smoky air, peasant mind hammered by a terrifying voice. He squinted into the gloom.

Outside the ancient chapel swarmed the Knights of the Fourth Crusade. Plundering and destroying centuries of wealth. The massive doors of Our Lady of Blachernes thudded. Shattered hinges rasped. Smoke snaked inside.

The tongue screamed again. Ordering him forward. Terrified, he lunged at the blinding white shrine...

 


 

Monday, February 15, 2:17 p.m. Passion Ministry, Washington State

“John? Hey, John!” Brendan shouted into a microphone. From his position inside the control booth, he punched a couple of buttons on an instrument panel. “What’s the hold up? We’re recording.”

John Jacobs’ consciousness slammed into his body. He blinked, adapting to the sudden change. It hadn’t been a hallucination. He had been there. Inside the body of his ancestor, a serf in thirteenth-century Constantinople.

John with headphonesSlowly, the singer/songwriter nicknamed the Apostle absorbed his surroundings: the cluttered studio, his five band members and quartet of backup singers. He knew he was safe in his Passion Ministry compound. And primed for the transformation. His knees buckled.

A steadying hand gripped his arm, then whipped off. “He friggin’ burned me!” The bass player blew across his finger tips. “Howzat possible?”

“Hey!” Brendan piped in again. “What’s going on?”

John spread his arms. Welcomed the bizarre and terrifying intrusion. Pain struck immediately in his head. Swirled. Ripped into his wrists and right side. His body convulsed in spasm. An image of his young son, bedridden and pale, seared across his mind. Jimmy.

Back in the control booth, Brendan flicked a puzzled glance at the man seated beside him. “What’s he doing?” Brendan asked. “Meditating?”

The musicians and technicians had been cooped up in the Ministry’s main recording studio for days, finishing John’s album, Unnatural State. Nine of the ten tracks had been mixed and in the can, thanks to the brilliant young producer.

His companion scratched a balding scalp. “Not sure,” Philip Ede replied, touching Brendan’s shoulder. “Wait.”

Brendan shoved him off. “Whaddaya mean, wait?! You’re the bitch banker who’s hanging the Easter deadline over my head, goin’ on and on about costs.”

“Whoa…” whispered a backup singer inside the studio. “I smell roses…”

Lights exploded behind John’s eyeballs. He gagged as his flesh ruptured and thought of his son. The boy was safe. And one day, praise God, Jimmy would embrace his destiny.
John flinched. For on that day and ever after, there would be skepticism, global scandal, death threats.

“JESUSmaryandjoseph!” cried another vocalist, dropping to her knees.

“What’s he—oh, that does it!” snapped Brendan. “Stuff this waiting crap! We’re layin’ the final voice tracks here. I’m going in.”

He ripped off his headphones. Charged inside the soundproofed studio, with Phil on his heels.

There was an eerie quiet as a sweet scent drenched the room. Both men froze. Blood seeped from the Apostle’s wrists and side.

John moaned. Collapsed into the arms of the surrounding musicians. They carefully laid him on a sofa.

Philip exhaled. “Never actually witnessed the beginning before, but right on time, baby. He’s showing the marks right on time.”

“So,” Brendan said. “This’s how it happens. Wicked.”

A singer stared at the dime-sized hole on John’s wrist. Screamed and fainted.

“Jesus wept,” muttered the bass player, licking his damaged finger tip. “Jesus friggin’ wept.”

 

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