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CHAPTER 15

It was time.

Silas felt strong as he stepped from the black Audi, the nighttime breeze rustling his loose-fitting robe. The winds of change are in the air.He knew the task before him would require more finesse than force, and he left his handgun in the car. The thirteen-round Heckler Koch USP 40 had been provided by the Teacher.

A weapon of death has no place in a house of God.

The plaza before the great church was deserted at this hour, the only visible souls on the far side of Place Saint-Sulpice a couple of teenage hookers showing their wares to the late night tourist traffic. Their nubile bodies sent a familiar longing to Silas’s loins. His thigh flexed instinctively, causing the barbed cilice belt to cut painfully into his flesh.

The lust evaporated instantly. For ten years now, Silas had faithfully denied himself all sexual indulgence, even self-administered. It was The Way.He knew he had sacrificed much to follow Opus Dei, but he had received much more in return. A vow of celibacy and the relinquishment of all personal assets hardly seemed a sacrifice. Considering the poverty from which he had come and the sexual horrors he had endured in prison, celibacy was a welcome change.

Now, having returned to France for the first time since being arrested and shipped to prison in Andorra, Silas could feel his homeland testing him, dragging violent memories from his redeemed soul. You have been reborn, he reminded himself. His service to God today had required the sin of murder, and it was a sacrifice Silas knew he would have to hold silently in his heart for all eternity.

The measure of your faith is the measure of the pain you can endure , the Teacher had told him. Silas was no stranger to pain and felt eager to prove himself to the Teacher, the one who had assured him his actions were ordained by a higher power.

« Hago la obra de Dios , »Silas whispered, moving now toward the church entrance.

Pausing in the shadow of the massive doorway, he took a deep breath. It was not until this instant that he truly realized what he was about to do, and what awaited him inside.

The keystone. It will lead us to our final goal.

He raised his ghost-white fist and banged three times on the door. Moments later, the bolts of the enormous wooden portal began to move.

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