Chapter 36 of The Holy Lance, a fantasy thriller

The team of misfits is zeroing in on the conspirators sparking a car chase and a gun battle. Comments are welcome.

Chapter 36

Zvartnots International Airport lies midway between Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, and Echmiadzin, its holiest city. The M5, the east-west freeway connecting the two cities, is nearly deserted as Gregori Druzhnikov, Ludmilla Chebushova, Chet Brinker, and Svetlana Krazavitska make the late night, 15-minute drive west from the airport to the holy city. Druzhnikov drives, Chebushova rides shotgun, while Brinker and Krazavitskaya share the back seat of a rented sedan.

Druzhnikov glances back at Krazavitskaya.

“Your boyfriend will soon be your Tsar if this doesn’t go well.”

She laughs at the proposition.

“You laugh, but it’s true.”

“It’s a joke. Alexei couldn’t lead a rat to cheese let alone a whole country.”

Brinker leans forward.

“The Sons of Peter may have come to the same conclusion. Why else would they be after the Holy Lance?”

“I’m betting they can’t see one without the other,” Druzhnikov offers.

His assistant, as usual, is skeptical.

“Please explain, fearless leaser.”

Druzhnikov responds as he continues to drive.

“It’s simple. Having the Tsar gives them legitimacy, but maybe not enough to seize power. Having the complete Holy Lance gives them power, but not legitimacy. It’s a perfect package.”

Ludmilla shakes her head in disgust.

“All men are power mad pigs.”

“What? I suppose you include your benevolent master in such a sweeping statement,” Druzhnikov teases.

“I just wanted to make sure we’re all on the same wave length here.”

“I would not have believed it of Alexei. Power? Him? But when I saw him, he was not the same. A little soap, a haircut, some new clothes, and a room full of people kissing his ass and suddenly he is hypnotized into believing he is descended straight from God.”

Brinker, who is slightly amused by the near-constant sarcasm of his Russian hosts, tries to bring them back to the business at hand.

“Not that I don’t relish all of this chitchat, but what’s the plan here? Shoot ‘em up and hope we’re right about everything?”

“We’ll see how far they’ve gotten with the excavation when we get to Echmiadzin. That should give us some idea of their, and our, timeline,” Druzhnikov suggests.

Brinker is skeptical.

“You really think we’ll get access?”

“We’ll make some noise in town by asking questions. That might smoke them out so that we don’t need access. At least it’ll be a start.”

“I guess that’s a plan. Let’s get to a hotel. I need a shower and a shave.”

“And I need a change of clothes,” Svetlana complains.

“We’ll be in town in about two minutes. We’ll get a few hours rest then we’ll all meet for breakfast, and you girls can go shopping for clothes and religious icons after that while Brinker and I work the streets.”

“You spoil me,” Ludmilla quips.

At that moments a bullet passes through the rear and front windows of the car.

Druzhinikov jerks the wheel to the left as he looks in his rearview mirror. A set of headlights is rapidly approaching.

“What the hell?”

He swerves right then left again to avoid the small barrage coming from the passenger side of the trailing car.

Krazavitskaya, astonished by how close the bullet came to her head, lays into Druzhnikov.

“Doesn’t FSB train you how to spot people following you?”

Druzhnikov ignores the dig.

“Chet, look in my bag. Weapons, GPS tracker, lots of other hardware. We’ve got to get him off us.”

Brinker opens Druzhnikov’s flight bag sitting on the seat between him and Krazavitskaya and rapidly routs through it. He finds four 9mm Gyurza pistols, several clips of ammunition, a GPS tracker, a laptop, and a variety of electronic gadgets he is unable to immediately identify. He takes one of the pistols and two clips of ammo and hands them to Chebushova. He grabs another Gyurza for himself and shoves a clip into it.

“How did you get this stuff through security?”

“Come on. I’m FSB. It’s the only way to fly.”

Another round passes through the car. Krazavitskaya screams and gets as low in the back seat as she can..

“Light them up!” Druzhnikov shouts as he continues to swerve.

Brinker and Chebushova lean out of their windows and fire at the car behind them even as they continue to take fire. Both cars are careening wildly on the largely deserted highway making aiming and firing accurately nearly impossible. Brinker concentrates on the driver while Chebushova tries for the front right tire of the pursing car. She fires off three quick 9mm rounds and one of them finds its mark. The tire explodes and quickly disintegrates as the car lurches to the right heading for an empty field north of the M5 on the eastern edge of Echmiadzin. Druzhnikov sees his chance and quickly exits the highway in favor of the city’s surface streets.  

Brinker drops his empty clip and reloads. Chebushova does the same.

“Forget about a hotel room. Too dangerous. Let’s head out to that construction site. Maybe we can pick something up.”

“Ludmilla, darling and most valued assistant, tell me you Googled it. Nice shooting, by the way.”

She looks around to get her bearings.

“Take the M3 north. We should be coming up on it.”

Krazavitskaya sits upright.

“Any chance of letting me out at the first Holiday Inn?”

Brinker delivers the bad news.

“Sorry. In for a dime, in for a dollar.”

“What?”

“That’s American for no.”

“Turn here,” Krazavistkaya directs.

Druzhnikov waits until the last moment before making a screeching, hard right turn to head north on the M3, the road that will take this unlikely group into the heart of an audacious, nearly century-old conspiracy linking the events of two millennia to the fate of a third.