Book of JUDAS - Richard Hollands - E-Book

Book of JUDAS E-Book

Richard Hollands

4,99 €


Philip and Simon Trenchard lost their parents at the age of seven and eight in a road accident, and were brought up by their beloved grandfather, the eminent archaeologist Sir Lawrence. At his funeral, years later, their world is about to be shattered once again – in fact the entire world as we know it faces an Armageddon of unimaginable evil.

In Sir Lawrence’s will, he entrusts to the brothers the terrible secret he uncovered in the Holy Lands – some ancient apparently Biblical scrolls. But these were not the testaments of Mathew, Mark or John but of Judas…

“The truth was potentially explosive. We had found the map and instructions to the biggest religious discovery of all time… Not only that, but if the Book of JUDAS really existed it was prophesised that its unearthing would destroy the pillars upon which the entire Christian religion had grown… It had the power to unlock the devil himself.”

The very knowledge of their existence is deadly. Now Sir Lawrence is gone the Vatican is determined to claim the secret that undermines its raison d’être and their hired agents will stop at nothing. Worse still, is the knowledge that the Antichrist’s disciples on earth, The Satanica, have unleashed an assassin of pure, implacable evil leaving hideously mutilated bodies in his wake as he follows the Trenchard brothers on their quest. In a terrifying, nail-biting mission that takes us from leafy Oxfordshire to the Dead Sea; from Greece to the Vatican, the brothers travel the world to save the world – and themselves – from Satan’s ultimate revenge
Language English

Sie lesen das E-Book in den Legimi-Apps auf:

von Legimi
zertifizierten E-Readern

Seitenzahl: 760


Book of JUDAS

Richard Hollands


© Copyright 2015

Richard Hollands

The right of Richard Hollands to be identified as the author ofThis work has been asserted by him in accordance with theCopyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

All Rights Reserved

No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publicationmay be made without written permission.No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced,copied or transmitted save with the written permission or in accordance withthe provisions of theCopyright Act 1956 (as amended).

Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation tothis publication may be liable to criminalprosecution and civil claims for damage.

A CIP catalogue record for this title isavailable from the British Library

ISBN– 978-1-909908-89-5

For Alexander, Henry, Max and Tillyand especially Issie for all her help....


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Chapter Forty-Seven

Chapter One

Sutton Dean, Oxfordshire

Philip Trenchard looked solemnly at the ground as the pallbearers began lowering the wooden coffin into the freshly dug hole. It was mid-May and the earth was soft from the seasonal spring showers. Philip glanced across at his brother Simon, while the Vicar, dressed in his black and white cassock, solemnly intoned the final prayers for their departed grandfather. Having known the deceased and the family for many years, Father George Wells was almost as grief-stricken as those gathered around him.

After days of seemingly ceaseless drizzle the weather had changed dramatically for the better as if to mark this sombre occasion. Now, just after twelve o’clock, the sun had emerged to bless the graveyard of the ancient St. Peter’s church, which dated back to the twelfth century. Beyond its waist-high, stone wall perimeter, it was surrounded by green fields in any direction you cared to look and only a loose gravel path running between two fenced fields connected the House of Worship to its Parish, the small Oxfordshire village of Sutton Dean.

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” murmured the priest, holding a bible close to his chest with one hand whilst sprinkling earth onto the coffin below with his other.

As Father Wells’ recitation moved from the Committal to the Dismissal and final blessing for the departed, Philip watched the dirt spatter harshly onto the wooden coffin lid, partially covering the shiny brass plaque engraved with the name of his grandfather, Sir Lawrence Trenchard.

Bowing his head, Philip closed his eyes and took a moment to pay his last respects to the man who had been responsible for his upbringing. Father Wells’ even monologue blended into the background as he cast his mind back to the tragic circumstances that had led to their grandfather becoming their guardian at such an early age.

Although Philip was only eight at the time, fourteen months older than his brother Simon, he had a slightly clearer recollection of that terrifying night in October 1974. Recalling the events was always difficult; his mind would replay the tape the same way it had done on countless occasions in the past. It would begin with happy images of their family home and the brothers playing in the garden… only for the scene to be shattered as he moved to the next frame. It was dark – in the early hours of the morning. Simon sitting bolt upright on his bed, paralysed by the bloodcurdling shrieks from downstairs that pierced the silence for what felt like an age but in truth was probably a matter of minutes. Frozen with fear, Philip remembered the gut-wrenching panic that welled up as the screams became muffled and again an eerie silence returned. Several moments later their grandfather Sir Lawrence burst into the room, roughly seized both boys and lurched down the stairs with them clinging to his neck.

For both boys it was the same. From the moment they reached the foot of the stairs in their grandfather’s arms, the memory ceased. The next thing that he could recall was Simon crying and screaming “Mummy” as they were hurled into the back of a car and driven off at high speed. The very next morning their grandfather came to them with tears in his eyes and told them the tragic news. Neither Philip nor Simon would ever forget his ashen, haunted face as he tenderly drew them both to him and told them that their mother and father, his own son, had been killed in a fatal road accident. He never offered any further explanation for the events of that night – not then, nor in later years – but continued to hold them tightly, repeating, “You’ll be safe now, I’ll look after you”. From that day onwards, the brothers lived with Sir Lawrence in his stately mansion, Tudor Hall, in the small Oxfordshire hamlet.

That was over twenty-six years ago, and Philip was now thirty-five and Simon, thirty-four. On many occasions they had tried to recreate the memory from the moment they had reached the bottom of the stairs but always came up against an implacable inner defensive wall that was not prepared to let them endure the insufferable pain of the truth. Something frightening had taken place; something the mind of a seven- or eight-year-old could not cope with and no amount of mental pressure could bring the barrier down. Philip’s mind skipped to the scene with his brother screaming for their mother and his eyes burst open, startled, as if waking from a bad dream.

In the bright sunshine, he quickly took stock of his surroundings again. In line with Sir Lawrence’s wishes there was only a small gathering present to see him lowered into his final resting place. Apart from Simon, Father Wells and the four pallbearers, there were only four other members of the congregation – and Philip knew everyone present save one, an older-looking gentleman with an academic appearance about him, which was not at all surprising, thought Philip, given the history and nature of their deceased grandfather’s career.

Standing next to him was Mrs Vines, who leant stiffly forward and carefully dropped the bunch of white lilies she was holding into the open grave, scattering their white, trumpet flowers and green stalks spread evenly over the casket. She sniffled and covered her face with a tissue. Mrs Vines knew the brothers well. In her sixties now, she had been the cook, housemaid and secretary to Sir Lawrence for more than twenty-five years, living in her own annex attached to Tudor Hall.

Standing to her left was Felix Bairstow, the family solicitor. He shook his head in grim acknowledgement as he caught Philip’s glance in his direction. Bairstow, also in his sixties, was a very old friend of Sir Lawrence. Their relationship had begun in earnest in the early 1970s when Sir Lawrence had returned from his well-documented travels abroad. Finally, the gentleman standing next to Simon was Dr. James Gifford who had become a close friend of Sir Lawrence over the last few years of his life. In his mid-forties, he worked for the local practice and had taken a sabbatical from the role of family doctor to look after him full time at his request. The thought of entering a private or NHS hospital had filled Sir Lawrence with terror.

Father Wells was reaching the end of the service.

Two days earlier, Father Wells himself had attended the memorial service that had been held in Westminster Abbey in Victoria for the late Sir Lawrence Trenchard. The service was conducted according to precise instructions he had left with Felix Bairstow and both Philip and Simon were requested to make selected readings. In total there were over four hundred friends, colleagues and distant relatives present to celebrate the life of Britain’s most eminent archaeologist of modern times. The service was attended by various dignitaries, including members of the royal family who had befriended him over the years and who were familiar with his work and discoveries in the Holy Lands of the Near East – he had been knighted in 1971 in recognition of the advancements he had made to our understanding of ancient times and photographs of the occasion were proudly displayed on the wall of his study at Tudor Hall. After Sir Lawrence had completed his archaeological tours through Judea and the surrounding Arab states in the fifties and sixties, he was offered the position of Curator at one of Oxford University’s most famous landmarks, the Ashmolean Museum. With its instantly recognisable domed façade, it was established in the late seventeenth century and internationally renowned for its archaeological exhibitions. The role allowed him the freedom to complete his chronicles and at the same time to accept public engagements to speak and lecture on the archaeological discoveries he had made.

“…In the name of the Lord, our Father…” intoned Father Wells solemnly, holding up his free hand and making the sign of the cross above the trench. “…Amen.”

The vicar paused, looking up at the gathering around him.

“Thank you, Father Wells,” said Simon Trenchard respectfully. “My grandfather would have appreciated your kind words.”

The Vicar cast his gaze from Simon to Philip, who smiled and nodded his agreement. In turn, Father Wells dismissed the pallbearers with a discreet signal and two of them headed back towards the church. The remaining two picked up their tools and started shovelling the neat pile of earth back over the coffin, the first shovelful covering some of Mrs Vines’ white lilies.

Father Wells, conscious of the brother’s desire for privacy, started to make his way over to join Mrs Vines, Dr. Gifford and Felix Bairstow who were huddled in conversation.

Slightly bemused, Philip looked around for the elderly-looking gentleman wearing the black overcoat but he had disappeared. He heard a car engine starting and glanced beyond the stone wall to catch a glimpse of the figure at the wheel of a car steadily crunching down the gravel path towards the village and the main roads.

“Who was that?” asked Philip, touching the vicar’s arm as he was passing and nodding towards the departing vehicle.

“I’m afraid I’m not sure of his name − David I think. He told me he was a very old friend of your grandfather’s and Felix expected him.”

“Thanks,” said Philip curiously as he watched the car disappear from view. He knew Bairstow well enough to know that none of those present would have been there without his late grandfather’s express permission.

The vicar joined the others and gently ushered them towards the path leading to the church. Simon approached Philip, carefully skirting the grave and the two gravediggers.

“Come on,” he said, putting a hand on Philip’s shoulder and gently pushing for him to follow.

The graveyard was grassy and uneven and the variously shaped headstones broke through randomly scattered bushes; the recent ones proud and upright, and weathered, ancient ones protruding at all angles from the greenery. Philip followed his brother past a flowering magnolia towards two headstones planted side by side against the perimeter wall.

Usually unaccompanied, they each visited this plot whenever they were back in the country.

The inscription on the first headstone read:

John TrenchardLoving husband of Valerie andBeloved father of Philip and Simon1942-1974

Next to their father was their mother’s headstone with matching engraving. The brothers stood in silence for a few minutes. Before the service they had arrived with flowers and, thanks to Mrs Vines’ assistance, the flowerpots in front of the headstones were now a splash of spring colours.

“It’s good to see you again, Philip,” said Simon, still focusing on the headstones.

“You too,” he replied. This was the first time they had seen each other for over two years.

“I had a phone call from grandfather three weeks ago asking me to come back to Tudor Hall as soon as I could… I was due to be here now to see him,” said Philip.

“I know,” replied Simon. “He called me afterwards and agreed the dates with me. Said he wasn’t feeling well… but I could tell he was excited about telling us something… I guess we’ll never know what now.”

“Do you think it was something to do with our Mum and Dad?” asked Philip inquisitively.

“Too late… We’ll never know,” murmured his brother.

Philip looked over his shoulder, sensing someone coming. It was their grandfather’s trusted solicitor, Felix Bairstow.

“I’m sorry to intrude,” he said, as he got closer. “But it was your grandfather’s wish that I read the will back at Tudor Hall after the service. He was adamant that he only wanted me to proceed if both of you could attend. Is that convenient for you?”

Philip exchanged a quizzical glance with Simon before nodding his confirmation.

“We’ll be along in a few minutes,” he replied, and Bairstow turned around and made his way back along the grass track to the others, still milling around the ivy-wreathed lych gate.

They stood quietly with their heads lowered, shoulder-to-shoulder, both absorbed in their own thoughts. At six feet three, Philip was marginally taller than his younger brother and everything about his appearance spoke of style and success. He was well groomed with dark hair, cut short at the sides and wore an expensive black suit that fitted his lean frame perfectly. Although they were alike in physical stature, that was where the similarity ended. In contrast, Simon’s persona was much more relaxed and laid back – in faded jeans and an open-neck, checked shirt, he stood casually with his hands in his pockets.

“Ready?” said Simon, taking a step backwards. Philip bent down and pulled a single flower from the arrangement in front of each headstone and turned to accompany him along the path to join the others. As they reached their grandfather’s half-filled grave, Philip halted.

“Hopefully he’s finally gone to join them,” he said and gently tossed the two flowers onto the fresh soil as the diggers continued shovelling the earth.

At the gate, Bairstow was organising who would travel in which car. The brothers had walked together from the village in the morning and accepted his offer of a lift. On the other side of the swing gate, the gravel path swept around a grassy mound in a turning arc for the three cars that were parked along the verge.

Philip held the front door open for Mrs. Vines to get in and then clambered next to Simon into the back of Bairstow’s Jaguar. They were the second car to depart and Philip gazed out of the window to his left through the wooden fence and out across the horse paddocks and the green fields that gently sloped up to the woods just over a quarter of a mile away. As he gazed into the bright sunlight along the line of trees with the blue skies in the background his mind wandered to the reading of the will that was to take place later that day. At least it should be relatively short, he thought – there were no skeletons in his grandfather’s closet that he was aware of.

A few moments later the car left the driveway and joined a country lane that wound its way through the village for the short journey to Tudor Hall Estate, whose grand entrance was opposite the village green’s central stone obelisk; a monument inscribed with the names of the local sons and fathers who had died during the Second World War.

“Felix, who was that man at the service wearing the long black overcoat?” asked Philip as the Jaguar turned in to face the high wrought-iron gates. Automatically they parted slowly to reveal the tree-lined drive through the magnificent grounds, whose every inch the brothers knew, towards Sir Lawrence Trenchard’s splendid residence.

“I’m not sure exactly,” he replied, catching Philip’s eye in the rear view mirror. “I believe he was a friend of your grandfather’s, connected with Oxford University or the Ashmolean Museum in some way. Anyway, he satisfied your grandfather’s written instructions as to who could attend.”

Philip nodded thoughtfully as the car drove through the gates.

Chapter Two

Vatican City, Rome

Cardinal Giacoma walked briskly across St. Peter’s Square, the hub of the Vatican City. The mild evening temperature notwithstanding, he felt uncomfortable and very apprehensive with the news he carried. Giacoma knew, as would those he was about to meet, that the implications of his imminent disclosure, would go to the very heart of their religion. It was highly unusual to call a consistory, or papal, meeting at such short notice but this revelation required immediate attention. Cardinal Giacoma considered the priests he was about to face. They all knew this day would was coming, he thought, shaking his head.

As was usual at soon before dusk fell, the Square was quiet and empty as Cardinal Giacoma hurried with his robes flurrying behind him to the top of the steps leading into St. Peter’s Basilica. A relatively young Cardinal at only fifty-two years of age, he reverently wore the traditional and distinctive scarlet cassock that announced his importance and high office within the Holy See. On his head was the traditional red cap, or “biretta”, that was placed there by the Pope after reading the Holy Oath of Obedience at his inauguration ceremony.

At the grand portal he paused for a beat to acknowledge the Swiss Guard sentry who stood smartly to attention as he approached. Inside, he walked decorously through the atrium towards the central door, one of five leading into the magnificent Basilica itself. Despite having been a permanent resident of the Vatican for many years, he still marvelled at the opulence of its treasures and rich religious history. Giacoma passed through the door decorated with fifteenth century bronze panels by Filarete and made his way towards the aisle leading into the right arcade. Its vast emptiness gave the impression to many that the Basilica was a cold place – but no one could deny the imperious beauty and majesty its architecture. Built over the ancient tomb of St. Peter, the magnificent edifice was home to countless works of art by great artists such as Raphael, Della Porta and Michelangelo. The indescribable beauty of the religious frescoes and the statues’ intricate, ornate detailing made the heart of the Vatican one of the greatest treasure chambers in the modern world.

Cardinal Giacoma scurried down the aisle, passing the magnificent Chapel of the Confession and the statue of Pius VI where day and night, ninety-five lamps burn before the tall “Baldachinno” marking the burial site of St. Peter the Apostle. He came to a sudden halt outside the entrance to the Chapel of the Sacrament. Inside, the elderly Cardinal Alphonso peered up from his meditation as he heard the steps on the stone floor come to an abrupt stop outside and the two men’s eyes met through the Baroque iron grille wrought on the gates by Borromini centuries before. Without uttering a sound, Cardinal Alphonso nodded his head in acknowledgement, then closed his eyes to pray. As the sign at the gate proclaimed, the Chapel of the Sacrament was “only for those who wish to pray” – an edict reverently observed by who enter at all times. Cardinal Giacoma was no exception and he lowered his head in deference to the more senior Cardinal and continued on his way, striding down the aisle towards the Sistine Chapel on his way to the Sala Regia.

Cardinal Camerlengo Fiore was already waiting in the Sala Regia, an antechamber next door to the Sistine Chapel that houses the papal throne. Solemn singing could be heard in the background as the conclave in the Cappella Paolina next door recited the mass entitled De Spiritu Santo. Cardinal Fiore was the second most powerful cleric in the Vatican. In his trusted and coveted role, he bore that additional title of “Camerlengo” because he was the Pope’s Chamberlain, the papal official responsible for all the church’s administrative and fiscal matters. In the event that the Pope died it was he who would temporarily assume the mantle of control until an elected successor was crowned. Cardinal Fiore was forty-five years of age and a tall man with jet-black hair crowned by the distinctive red biretta. Dressed in the same scarlet robes as Cardinal Giacoma and Alphonso, he was an imposing and commanding presence.

The door to the Sala Regia swung open and Cardinal Giacoma entered. Without turning around, Fiore continued to hum in time with the harmonic singing next door while examining a fresco by Giorgio Vasari. The scene depicted a momentous turning point in the life of the Roman Catholic Church; one which unknown to him, would pale into insignificance compared with the events that were about to unfold.

The door opened again and closed behind Cardinal Alphonso as he followed Giacoma across the centre of the broad room to where Cardinal Fiore was standing. At seventy-three, Alphonso was the oldest amongst them and the only one to have been a Cardinal at the time the original episode of crisis had first been debated over thirty-five years ago. Age had caught up with the hunched, silver-haired priest and with the help of a cane he approached in a lop-sided shuffle. Appearances, in his case, were deceptive – his intellectual prowess and ability to dispense even-handed wisdom had gained a substantial following amongst his fellow priests who had learnt the sagacity of his ways. Contrary to the impression he gave of a stumbling old man, his mental faculties were as sharp as the day he first took up the cloth.

Fiore turned around and welcomed his fellow priests.

“What’s so important that we have to convene so urgently, Brother Giacoma?” he asked, slightly put out by the disturbance to his official duties.

“Will His Holiness be in attendance?” he replied, looking slightly flushed.

“I will meet with His Holiness once I’ve determined the nature of the emergency,” said Fiore sternly, fixing his steely gaze on Giacoma.

This is outside what’s been agreed, thought Giacoma ruefully. He had anticipated a direct meeting with the Supreme Pontiff, Pope Paul XII.

“His Holiness should be party to the news immediately,” he hissed abrasively, flustered by the unannounced change of plan. “This is important − I need an audience now,” he continued sharply.

Cardinal Fiore, the Chamberlain for the Pope, raised a reassuring palm to Giacoma.

“Calm yourself, Cardinal Giacoma, your concern is understood, but I’ll be the judge of what’s relevant to the official office of His Holiness.”

Standing by the Sala Regia’s double doors, Cardinal Alphonso shuffled his weight to his other foot before speaking softly.

“I can sense that you’re worried, Brother Giacoma, but I believe I know the source of your troubles – you’re quite at liberty to speak freely in this room.”

Cardinal Giacoma stared deeply into Cardinal Alphonso’s eyes before arriving at his decision. Since his elevation to the highest ranks of priesthood, the elderly Alphonso had become his close friend and mentor and he trusted him implicitly.

“Lawrence Trenchard’s dead,” he blurted out. “He’s died at his home in England.”

Cardinal Fiore’s expression remained blank as he considered the implications of what they were being told. With his back to them, deep in thought, he walked towards the elaborate fresco depicting the mighty Battle of Lepanto. The gentle melodies of the choral singing floated into the room from the chapel next door.

“So the day has finally arrived!” Alphonso sighed.

“It’s all going to come back… Everything will re-surface,” he murmured softly, contemplating the menace that had lain dormant for so long.

“You’ll have to tell His Holiness,” Cardinal Giacoma insisted anxiously.

“Thank you,” said Fiore dismissively spinning around to face them. “Your work here is done Brother Giacoma. I’ll ensure that Pontiff’s made aware of your news − you may return to your formal duties but I would request that such information’s kept between the three of us for the time being until His Holiness decrees otherwise.”

Giacoma regained his composure.

“I’ll wait to hear from you, Brother Fiore,” he said obsequiously and with that he lifted the crucifix that hung just above his waist on a thick, gold chain and kissed it. Turning to Cardinal Alphonso, he bowed his head respectfully.

“Brother Alphonso,” he whispered before setting off towards the doors to the Cappella Paolina.

“This moment was destined from the time the Ruling Ecumenical Council last convened to close this chapter,” said Cardinal Fiore with a good deal of resentment and cynicism. “Maybe a more forward-thinking, pragmatic decision all those years ago could have saved us from this day!” he chided scornfully. Fiore knew that Alphonso and the Council had eventually voted to defer their decision, thereby leaving the dilemma to the Vatican’s next generation. Fiore shook his head as he weighed up the potential magnitude of the crisis.

“Make no mistake about it,” he went on, “the threat to our faith and even the continued existence of the Roman Catholic Church itself is colossal. The consequences of Sir Lawrence Trenchard’s death could change the face of the Christian world.”

“I understand your concern, Brother Fiore − you know perfectly well that I sat on the Council… If there’d been any other way for us to go, we’d have done so.”

“All I know is that you simply deferred a difficult decision thirty years,” Fiore argued. “You and your fellow Council members took the easy way out and now we no longer have that luxury – there’s no easy way out of this now!”

He walked over to where Cardinal Alphonso was standing and extended his arm.

“Come, Brother, we have much to consider,” muttered Fiore. There was no point holding a grudge or pressing home his opinions. He had said his piece with regard to the past and now it was time to think of the future.

Cardinal Alphonso gratefully took his arm and, with the aid of his cane, they walked together towards the Eastern Wing of the Vatican Palace, which housed the residential quarters of Pope Paul XII.

Chapter Three

Sutton Dean, Oxfordshire

The interior of Tudor Hall was as grand as its façade. Philip entered the main reception room off the hallway and sank into a comfortable floral paisley-covered armchair while waiting for Bairstow to make his final preparations. His brother, following closely behind, stood with his hands clasped behind his back before the magnificent stone fireplace admiring the original lithograph of ancient Jerusalem by David Roberts that took pride of place above the mantelpiece.

It was a bright airy room with high corniced ceilings, exposed beams and two sets of glass double doors leading out on to the terraced patio beyond. Both brothers had followed careers that took them overseas and returning to the childhood house where time had stood still felt very peculiar – at every turn an object or a room would bring memories flooding back. The two of them had been totally inseparable during their formative and early teenage years, which was hardly surprising given the intensity of the trauma they had suffered after the tragic loss of their parents. In the early years, the emotional attachment to, and dependency on, Sir Lawrence was incalculable but as time moved on, their grandfather derived great pleasure as he watched the strength of their bond grow before him. Simon grinned as he caught sight of one of the early pictures high up on the mantelpiece depicting the young boys struggling to keep pace with their grandfather.

“Do you remember this one? He was enormous!” he said, pointing with a nod of the head as he recalled the amusing anecdote.

Philip focused on the picture in the silver frame and smiled.

“You still owe me for that,” he said laughing at the fond memory although it had been far from funny at the time.

It was not a typical family picture. It depicted a visibly annoyed Sir Lawrence dragging the brothers by their arms on a cold winter’s day with their primary school in the background. On closer inspection you could make out bruising around Simon’s face. The year six school bully had made the elementary mistake of picking a fight with the younger Trenchard, who was half his size. Alerted by the commotion, Philip, who was not known for his aggression, dashed to the rescue and felled the giant tormentor with one powerful blow. Hearing the report from the playground attendant, the misguided headmaster had been furious at this shameful behaviour called their grandfather to come and remove the brothers from the battle scene. His initial annoyance soon faded to respect for young Philip when he grasped the truth behind the events and the photo was installed as a memento to his brave deed.

The close bond between them continued until they reached early adolescence. After that it didn’t come to an abrupt end but rather gradually transformed as their personalities and mutual dependency evolved and the dependency. Watching proudly from the wings, their grandfather was as surprised at the growing difference in their characters as he had been impressed by the strength of their union in their formative years. The elder Philip was extremely clever and his academically prowess enabled him to sail through exams without too much difficulty. By contrast, Simon was intellectually “middle of the road”, constantly striving to join the band of the elite although he didn’t get too upset about not making the grade. From his side there was no envy because he had strong attributes of his own, excelling on the sports field not just by representing the school in rugby, swimming, hockey and athletics but also by being selected to represent the county and achieving “local” fame and recognition by touring with junior England teams. Again, mirroring Simon’s intellectual capabilities, Philip played and enjoyed sport but his skill and ability were outclassed by his younger brother’s innate flair.

Their grandfather often wondered how his son had managed to produce offspring with such abundant yet starkly different talents. Always looking to find new ways of encouraging them, he observed how their abilities affected the development of their personalities. Competing in two alien environments, Philip in his world of academia and Simon in his sporting arena, meant that they grew up in two very separate social worlds.

When they reached “A level” age, their day to day lives went their separate ways. Philip passed his Oxbridge exams with flying colours and accepted the invitation from St. Edmund’s Hall to enter Cambridge University. The following year Simon achieved the grades necessary to accept a place at Loughborough University, which was renowned for its development of sporting talent. The notion of his taking the Oxbridge exam had been dismissed out of hand by the teaching staff at St. Edward’s.

As they embarked on their differing paths, Sir Lawrence watched as the nature and intensity of communication and interaction between them changed. He was pleased that neither had lost his confident, outgoing personality – nevertheless, the social circles and peer groups in which they moved were radically different and the ease and comfort they once felt with each other’s friends steadily diminished.

Throughout his university career, Philip’s academic results continued to flourish and impress his grandfather. Not only did he graduate with a first class honours degree – he also received the distinction of becoming head of the Cambridge Debating Society attracting many gratifying plaudits from eminent professors along the way. As the time approached to leave, Philip devoted a lot of thinking time to his future career. He considered politics but felt that he would prefer a more well-defined and structured environment. As consequence he settled on the more lucrative and glamorous choice of Investment Banking. Cambridge University, being what it is, one of the top producers of executive talent in the world, attracted the biggest and best “City” firms to its hallowed halls, jostling to recruit the pick of the crop. Philip, at the top of their hit lists, was seduced by the financial rewards and responsibilities that were thrust upon him by one of the Big Five American investment houses. He accepted the offer and after completing the management training program and three years’ work experience in London, he returned to Tudor Hall to make an announcement. His grandfather was delighted to hear the news that he had been promoted to Vice President but his enthusiasm was dampened when he learnt that the position also required his relocation to their Wall Street office. Accustomed to his regular trips back to Tudor Hall, his grandfather realised he couldn’t stand in his way and gave the move his blessing.

Simon on the other hand, continued to excel in the world of sport but only bordered on a level where he began to toy with the idea of turning professional. After much deliberation and soul-searching, his head finally overruled his heart and he decided that he should embark on a structured career path. In the end, he too followed a career in the City of London but not in the privileged, high profile footsteps of his brother. Instead he started on the bottom rung with a gently declining, middle-of-the-road stockbroking firm. Simon’s progress was rapid. He was friendly and go-getting and, more importantly, he started to make lots of money for the firm. His grandfather suspected that he felt slightly aggrieved by the differential in status and remuneration compared with his older brother so he went out of his way to applaud Simon’s efforts.

In reality, though, his concern was unfounded because the goals and targets they set themselves were very different. If Simon had wanted to succeed in the City, if he had been motivated by others’ perceptions or the trappings of success he could have made it, but the truth was that he didn’t care. Philip only realised as much when Simon suddenly handed in his notice to his employer who was disappointed to learn of his departure after such an auspicious start to his career. Simon felt that he was following too closely in his older brother’s shoes without really stopping to consider the alternatives. On top of everything else he felt stifled and bored in the job; it was not what he wanted. His next move was impulsive but still received his grandfather’s full backing. He decided to join the army and obtained a commission with the Royal Duke of Edinburgh Regiment stationed in Berkshire. Enjoying the camaraderie, Simon passed through Sandhurst with flying colours and as a young captain he was posted on various peace-keeping assignments including tours of duty in Cyprus and Northern Ireland. After two years, just as his promotion to Major was announced, his command was sent into the Kosovo war zone. The death, the poverty and the barbaric conditions in which the local population lived and survived shocked him. Simon struggled to come to terms with the absurd futility of the “ethnic cleansing” as he watched innocent bystanders getting caught in the crossfire day after day. He saw friends killed in cold blood a few feet from where he stood and in turn he shot the enemy, justifying his actions as self-defence. It was insufficient – the senselessness of war distressed him and he found it harder and harder to live with his actions. In the end he saw out the tour but immediately on arriving back in England he bought his way out of the regiment. His grandfather was disappointed but understood his principles. He was also slightly concerned that Simon would be unable to find his true vocation.

After taking stock of his life and reassessing his own values, Simon discovered where his true calling lay and he conveyed his views to his grandfather over lunch in Oxford. Unsure how the news would be received, he was pleasantly surprised by Sir Lawrence’s friendly and enthusiastic support and guidance. About a month later, while staying with Philip in his apartment off Sloane Square, Simon informed him of his decision to leave England. He told him that with the help of their grandfather, he had been offered a position within an international volunteer organisation affiliated to the United Nations that dispensed medical and teaching aid to the poorest communities in Africa and South-East Asia. Initially Philip was stunned and argued vehemently against it, but eventually he realised that further discussion on the subject was fruitless. Simon’s mind was made up.

Just a week later, he boarded a plane for Namibia and the brotherly inter-dependence that had been so strong in their early years was formally broken. As each day passed, the ties that had once bound them so tightly together began to loosen, but not entirely to unravel – and over the years that followed and the thousands of miles that separated them, they gradually grew further apart.

In Tudor Hall’s main reception lounge, Simon moved away from the impressive, stone fireplace to look at other memorabilia of a bygone age around the room. He stepped towards a circular mahogany George III table covered with more framed photographs surrounding an elaborate dried flower arrangement in the centre.

“Do you remember how happy he was that day?” asked Simon, holding up another picture.

The photograph showed the brothers beaming at the camera with grandfather, also grinning broadly, standing between them with his hands clapped around their shoulders. They were standing on the lawns of St. Edmund’s Hall, Cambridge and Philip gave the impression of being very learned at his graduation ceremony in his black gown, mortarboard balanced on his head and clutching his degree certificate.

“I remember it well,” recalled Philip fondly.

“He looks so well and full of life… Good times!” he added wistfully.

Now at the tender age of thirty-five, Philip had carved out an enviable reputation within New York’s indiscreet, scandal-ridden banking community. Since embarking on his career, he had become the doyen of the senior management who had lavished the rich trappings of success upon him to pre-empt counter offers from rival firms. If he managed to avoid the many pitfalls, partnership status was on the horizon.

Simon looked at the picture one last time before replacing it on the table.

“Have you made any plans yet?” asked Philip.

Simon had already told Philip on arrival at Tudor Hall that we wouldn’t be staying long – in his United Nations relief agency role he was constantly in demand, co-ordinating projects to alleviate the suffering in various war-torn, famine-infested third world countries, none of which could be put on hold for a family bereavement.

“I’ve booked a flight for tomorrow evening,” he replied. “What about you? − I guess Heather must be keen to get you back.”

Heather Adams was Philip’s beautiful fiancée. They had met in Manhattan while working on a project of mutual interest to both their prestigious firms. She was a highly successful, highly-respected lawyer in her own right and would have gladly attended the funeral service herself if it had not been for an unprecedented multi-million dollar deal that would have stalled without her presence.

“She’s really busy at the moment so I’m going to stay back a couple of days longer to sort his affairs out − if you’re leaving that quickly we’ll have to make a few joint decisions tonight and tomorrow morning,” said Philip.

“What decisions?” asked Simon quizzically, having assumed that Bairstow could handle most of the outstanding matters.

“Well, for a start, what are we going to do with this place?” said Philip, casting his arm around the room to indicate the house and its belongings. “You might need to give me your Power of Attorney.”

At that moment, Felix Bairstow entered the room.

“If you’re both ready, we can begin the reading?”

Simon nodded towards his brother.

“Ok, let’s hear what has to be said and then we’ll sit down and go through the details − I don’t suppose there are any major surprises in the will are there, Felix?” he asked flippantly.

Bairstow, in his long-term capacity as Sir Lawrence’s confidant, knew the drama of what was about to unfold. Normally calm and assured, he suddenly seemed slightly and uncharacteristically – anxious. He fidgeted apprehensively, contemplating his answer to Simon’s question before giving them a bewildering response.

“I think you’ll find that the contents of the will the least of your concerns when you learn your grandfather’s real legacy,” he stated ominously from the doorway.

Simon and Philip were momentarily stunned by the reply; surprise registering across their faces.

“What do you mean, Felix?” asked Philip curiously.

“All will be revealed very shortly…” he replied slowly and mysteriously, before tapering off deep in thought. Suddenly, he jerked back to life. “Why don’t we begin in the study? It’s much more private in there.”

Philip and Simon followed Bairstow down a wood-panelled corridor off the main hallway that led to Sir Lawrence’s private study. Inside, it was like an exhibit room in a museum, every available space packed with ancient artefacts and relics from a bygone age displayed in glass presentation cases. It was an archaeological treasure trove; a testament to his life’s work. Simon shuddered as he passed through the creaking wooden door – he still felt as if he were trespassing whenever he entered the study. As young children capable of getting up to all kinds of mischief, the brothers had been expressly forbidden from ever entering his sacred domain. From floor to ceiling, the walls were clad in bookcases and shelves and any space that did remain uncovered was filled with a mosaic of mostly monochrome and sepia framed photographs – pictures of excavation sites, ancient ruins and other interesting places he had visited on his archaeological tours. One particular picture always caught Felix Bairstow’s eye – a photograph of Sir Lawrence as a youth, standing in front of the Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor. Next to him was a solitary, distant-looking gentleman in his mid-sixties. As Sir Lawrence had recounted to Bairstow on more than one occasion, this aloof-looking gentleman was none other than Howard Carter, probably the most famous Egyptologist of all time. His most notable achievement and the one for which he received extensive international acclaim along with the Fifth Earl of Carnarvon, was the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922,

Outside, the evening was drawing in and Mrs Vines was busying herself drawing the long velvet curtains across the latticed window to replace the sun’s fading light with that of two table lamps and a reading lamp that stood on their grandfather’s antique leather-inlaid desk. Bairstow, anxious to commence proceedings, promptly walked around the desk and sat down on the old swivel chair. Bending down to his left, he clicked open a case and produced a carefully sealed package, which he laid out in front of him. Looking up, he politely ushered the brothers into the two armchairs he had arranged in a slight arc facing the desk. The brothers, still looking perplexed, dropped themselves down into the amply cushioned seats.

Behind Bairstow, Mrs Vines gave the room more light by pulling the dangling cord of a tall standard lamp.

“Thank you, Emily,” said Bairstow and she smiled warmly before leaving the room.

Using an ivory-handled letter opener, Bairstow slit the envelope across the top. He pulled out the contents, which included a few bound sheets of paper and a plastic case the size of a thick paperback book. Putting on his half-moon reading glasses, he glanced at his audience before focusing on the will’s italic writing and commencing his administrative role.

“In my capacity as Executor to the will of the late Sir Lawrence Trenchard, I am bound to carry out his specific wishes. In fact, as you will understand later, the reading of the will is only one of my duties this evening.”

He glanced up, checking that he had the brothers’ undivided attention.

“Fine, let’s make a start. Firstly, I’ll deal with the capital distributions of the estate before moving on to the real reasons why your grandfather was so adamant that both of you, and you alone, should attend this meeting.”

Bairstow peered over the top of his glasses as the brothers traded confused glances.

What on earth does he mean? thought Simon.

“In no particular order, I’ll run through the major contents of the will. The house and its possessions, save for your grandfather’s private archaeological pieces, are bequeathed jointly to you both,” said Bairstow, looking up.

“Your grandfather left a comprehensive list as you can see,” he said, holding up a thick file containing a computer print-out of Sir Lawrence’s private collection.

“Over the next few days, the artefacts will be carefully transported to the basement of the Ashmolean Museum where they’ll eventually go on display. About two years ago, the Dean of Oxford University and Sir Lawrence reached a confidential agreement regarding the donation of his personal collection. The University wanted to commemorate the work of their most famous archaeologist and have made financial provisions to refurbish an exhibit hall to be named after him. That hall will become the permanent home to his artefacts and a testament to his life’s work.”

That’s exactly what he would have wanted, thought Philip, nodding his approval. Up until that point, the question of a final resting place for his private collection had preyed on his mind.

“Your grandfather was a wealthy man,” continued Bairstow, “and he has made some generous monetary gifts to me and to Mrs Emily Vines. He also consulted with Doctor Gifford and agreed to pledge a sum towards the appeal for a new ward at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. Am I right in understanding that you were familiar with these arrangements?”

Philip and Simon nodded.

“In total about three hundred thousand pounds, isn’t it?” queried Philip. He then went on to tell Bairstow his understanding of how the generous bequest was broken up.

“That’s correct Philip, but I suspect you may not be aware of the following,” he continued raising his eyebrows. “Sir Lawrence has divided the balance of the estate three ways.”

“What do you mean?” said Philip with a puzzled expression. He was not unduly concerned about the size of his inheritance now that it would be split by an additional fraction but he was genuinely taken aback by the revelation of a new third party.

“After government taxes have been paid and allowing for some fluctuation on his market investments, your grandfather’s estate amounts to approximately one million eight hundred thousand pounds and is to be divided evenly between yourself, Philip… Simon… and… Anna Nikolaidis.”

“And who is she exactly?” Simon asked sarcastically. He was genuinely startled by the news but as he thought about it a bemused smile spread across his face.

Well, well, well, there must be a skeleton in the closet after all that we don’t know about, he thought. Like Philip, he started imagining the revelation of a love child from some illicit, extra-marital affair.

“I’m going to let your grandfather explain that,” replied Bairstow dispassionately. His words took a few seconds to sink in.

The amused look on Simon’s face was replaced by one of astonishment.

“What are you saying, Felix?” asked Philip, the irritated inflexion in his tone creeping up to reflect his increasing annoyance with Bairstow’s games.

“You are both aware that over the two-week period before your grandfather passed away that he was very extremely keen to see you…”

Bairstow looked up, waiting for their acknowledgements. They both gave one nod of the head; it was not something they cared to be reminded about.

“Well your grandfather knew he didn’t have long to live and he desperately wanted to have one final conversation with you both. His anxiety that you wouldn’t reach him in time increased with each passing day and, with the help of Doctor Gifford and myself, he decided to make a back-up plan.”

The brothers sat frozen, absorbed by what Bairstow was saying and fascinated to hear what would come next. Each of them suddenly sensed that somehow their deceased grandfather was going to speak to them − but how?

Is this woman, Anna Nikolaidis somehow connected? thought Simon.

Confused, they clung to every word the loyal and dutiful family solicitor had to say

“This…” said Bairstow, picking up the package in front of him, “… contains the real reason why Sir Lawrence was so anxious to see you. He knew he didn’t have much time left and asked us to help him set up a video camera so that he could record himself. Your grandfather was adamant that his written word was not sufficient… He wanted to address you both in person.”

Philip and Simon watched Felix Bairstow take off his glasses and open the sealed package to produce a video case.

“This is the only copy… It’s your legacy − Are you ready to watch it?” he asked, holding up the black case.

Surprised, this is not what they expected and after a moment’s contemplation, Simon was the first to speak.

“I don’t have any problems, do you Philip?” he asked, sighing out loud.

At that particular moment in time, Simon couldn’t possibly imagine what it was that their grandfather wanted to speak to them about.

What on earth is your secret? What have you got in store for us? he wondered, pondering the various possibilities. Maybe it’s something to do with his guilt about leaving a third of his estate to somebody else that we’ve never heard of – or maybe he wants to make amends, or at least get us to understand...

The same myriad thoughts ran through the mind of his elder brother.

“No… I’ve no objections,” Philip replied slowly with a hint of reluctance. His enthusiasm was not tempered by worry about what the truth might hold, but from a fear of seeing his surrogate father dying before them in his last few days. His concern only escalated as Bairstow issued the following words of caution.

“I’m afraid I must warn you that this film was made two days before your grandfather died… You must be prepared for that… His condition deteriorated considerably over the last week.”

“Ok, we understand,” said Simon, “I’m sure whatever he has to say must be extremely important for him to go to these lengths.”

Bairstow stood up and walked over towards the large wooden wall cabinet and pulled open the double doors to reveal a television screen. Previously, the cabinet had been used to house some of the larger items in Sir Lawrence’s collection and the modern flat screen appeared completely out of place.

“I had this unit installed specially for this purpose,” he said, pulling out the cassette and leaning down to install it. The brothers jumped up and shifted their chairs around to get a better view. Bairstow, with a finger on the play button, turned his head to face them.

“Ready?” he asked, quizzically raising his eyebrows.

They nodded and the screen lit up as he pressed the button. Bairstow immediately stood up and walked slowly backwards, perching himself with his arms crossed, on the edge of the desk. The opening frames on the screen were slightly distorted as the picture showed the novice camera operator going in and out of focus until he reached the true definition.

Philip was shocked. He automatically reached out and put his hand on Simon’s shoulder as they both recoiled from the painful, harrowing sight of their dying grandfather. They were used to seeing him buoyant and full of life but this was distressing. With sunken cheeks, his face looked drained and sallow. It was immediately apparent that any movement, no matter how small, required a substantial concerted effort. Motionless, he lay in his four-poster bed upstairs in the master bedroom. At that moment, the figure of Doctor Gifford entered the screen as he leant across the bed, locking his arm under Sir Lawrence’s so that he could pull him up and place an additional pillow behind him.

“Is that better?” they heard the doctor ask his patient softly. Their grandfather mumbled something inaudible, which was promptly followed by the familiar voice of Bairstow confirming that everything was okay from behind the camera. He zoomed in so that the picture focused on their grandfather’s face whilst his head rested on the pillows. Ready to begin, the dying old man looked up towards the lens.

“Philip, Simon,” he spoke softly. “If you are watching this tape, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to stay around long enough to see you in person. I bitterly regret the fact that I didn’t try to contact you earlier but there’s nothing I can do about it now…”

Despite his frail and ghostly appearance he spoke lucidly. Occasionally, the extended length of his pauses between words made it clear how much effort the act was taking. Seeing the horror on the brother’s faces as they stared at the screen, Bairstow interrupted and reminded them that he was on very strong medication at this stage.

“I have a story to tell you that will now change both of your lives…” he paused and grimaced at the camera. “I’m angry with myself that I have left it so long; I thought the truth could stay buried in the past, but a recent event has changed any hope of that…” he said, blinking rapidly.

“Are you alright?” they heard Doctor Gifford ask and they watched their grandfather nod his head slowly and lift a handkerchief to remove the tears of anguish that were welling up in his eyes.

“I am so very sorry that I am not there to help, or answer your questions… I hope you’ll be able to forgive me…” He looked away sorrowfully for a second. As if in a trance, he paused for an instant, deep in thought, before looking back to the camera and summoning up what little energy that he had to complete the arduous task in hand. Having steeled himself, he spoke clearly into the microphone attached to the lapel of his pyjamas. The sheets were tucked up across his chest.

“Let me start at the beginning,” he said and stretched out a hand towards a glass of water sitting on the bedside cabinet. Doctor Gifford promptly returned into the frame to help before stepping back again.

“In 1947, a young Arab goat herder was walking through the rocky mountains along the North West Bank of the Dead Sea. To pass the time, he threw stones into the caves along the rock face and listened to them echoing as they ricocheted against the inside walls. However on this one occasion, he cast a stone and it made a dull thud… It had pierced a two-thousand-year-old ceramic pot…” Pausing, his eyes seemed to light up with the memory. “This was the first discovery ever made of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran.”

Engrossed, the brothers stared at the screen as they listened to their grandfather’s voice speaking to them from the grave.

“This was over half a century ago, and since then eleven caves have been discovered with ancient artefacts and over eight hundred scrolls. In 1953, when I was in my mid-thirties, I travelled to Qumran, to head the excavation of a newly found cave. Other caves were being excavated at the same time but there was a particular sense of urgency in this project. Roland De Vaux, the Catholic administrator in charge of the entire project was keen to complete the excavation work at the earliest opportunity…” Sir Lawrence sighed, “…In hindsight, I now understand why De Vaux was so eager but nevertheless he was not to know how many more caves would subsequently be found.”

Philip racked his brains to remember any mention of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He recalled all the pleasurable and animated conversations he had with his grandfather about his life’s work but nothing jumped out at him. Slowly shaking his head, he concluded that this was the first time he had mentioned the Scrolls.

“My assistant on the excavation was a Greek called “Demetri” – an experienced and highly educated man who’d run archaeological projects for Greek government. And although it was the first time we’d met, we immediately became good friends – because we were both driven by the same passion for our work, I suppose. Many times we worked away in the close confines of the cave into the early hours of the next day as we catalogued and recorded our findings.”

The brothers sensed his fondness and respect for the man. The glimmer of a smile and the warm tone he used to describe their comradeship left them in no doubt about the obvious affection in which he held Demetri.

“At the time,” he continued, “the site and the finds were a major topic of world news. The Scrolls dated back to the time of the Bible and everywhere the religious community was waiting to hear the impact of the translations on the Old Testament. Theologians around the world were anxious to understand whether the writings would confirm or deny the words attributed to the Apostles in the New Testament. In the circumstances, given the eagerness with which the news was awaited by the followers of Christianity, it was not surprising that rumours and stories began to flow abundantly. The principal complaint or rumour was one of suppression. The accusation was levelled at the Vatican, which through their appointee, De Vaux, was allegedly deliberately stifling and withholding information that contradicted the teachings of the bible – and therefore the Roman Catholic faith.”

Sir Lawrence suddenly coughed repeatedly and pressed a handkerchief to his mouth while he tried to regain his composure. For a moment his head fell so that his chin rested on his chest before Doctor Gifford appeared and hurriedly fed him some tablets along with a sip of water. Gradually the medicine took effect and, slightly reinvigorated, he continued with his intriguing story.

“We heard the rumours and to begin with we dismissed them but then things kept happening to make us reconsider. We began to get the feeling we were being watched − we were not unduly surprised that our work was being carefully screened but we soon became aware that De Vaux was actually making changes to our written records. Up to that point the contents of the deciphered Scrolls could be considered relatively harmless from the perspective of being anti-religious, but then Demetri and I made an amazing discovery. It was dark, just after midnight and we were working by the light of our gas lamps. At the back of the cave, Demetri noticed a soft lining in the wall. When we began to scrape what we thought was rock, to our astonishment it started to crumble, revealing a second but smaller inner cave. You had to crawl through the narrow hole in the rock on all fours to enter and once we were both inside we found that it was not big enough to stand upright. Inside, the contents were very different from those of the main cave. Demetri held up the gas lamp to reveal two ancient clay vessels sitting in the centre of a polished floor. We opened the pots and took out the papyrus scrolls that were folded inside. Their feel and fabric was different from the ones we had discovered earlier − they were flexible with a rubbery texture. I opened the first and was astounded to find that it was in perfect condition, unlike so many of the others − it was amazing; it was an intricately detailed map of Judea at the time of Christ. The second was even larger and we unravelled it on the floor. It was full of Hebrew text and we slowly started to decipher and read the ancient scriptures.”

Philip and Simon watched, riveted to the screen, as he continued.

“The translation was shocking…” said Sir Lawrence, coughing hoarsely. He stopped and stared intensely into the camera lens. “The scroll confirmed the existence of the Book of Judas…” he coughed again, struggling to get out the words, “…the bible of the antichrist.”