“Are you awake, my friend?” a voice echoed in my ears
“Can’t we just get this over with now?” another voice impatiently asked. “Does the kid have to be awake, or can we take it from him now?”
“He has to be awake,” the first voice responded.
I was not yet able to open my eyes, the lingering effects of chloroform keeping me from fully waking up, but I had regained just enough consciousness to begin making sense of the noises that had been echoing around me for some time. More than one voice, all seemingly in slow motion and blended into a jumbled mesh that I had not been able to understand, were finally beginning to separate into three distinct voices.
The blurriness in my eyes slowly faded, and I soon became able bodied enough to lift my head by my own power. The first thing that I noticed was that there were three hooded figures kneeling around me, and that the four of us were arranged in a circle around what appeared to be a pentagram drawn into the floor with my cup resting in its center. Once they realized that I was awake, they removed their hoods and revealed themselves as two men and one woman.
“I apologize for the rude means used to bring you here,” one of the robed figures, who I quickly learned was the scientist that had kidnapped me, opened the discussion, “but I figured you would have turned down a written invitation.”
My first instincts told me to run away, but I had been tied to a chair and was unable to move. After struggling to escape for a few seconds, I gave up and asked, still drowsy from the drugs, “You’re not really a scientist, are you?”
“Technically, I am,” the scientist answered, “but I have a higher calling in life, and fate has brought the four of us together tonight.”
“The news broadcasts?” I asked.
“Correct,” he answered. “They let me know where I could find you, which was actually the easy part. ‘Replacing’ the police station’s real scientist was the challenge.”
“You murdered someone, just to get to me?”
“That’s neither here nor there,” he impatiently answered, “but I digress. Let’s get down to business, shall we?”
Listening to what the scientist had to say was difficult at first, my attention distracted to a corner of the dark, candle-lit room and a television that was broadcasting both the breaking news of my kidnapping and the continuing coverage of the treasure chest. Information that had not been mentioned earlier, however, was now being given in the broadcasts. The FBI was looking for me, as I would have expected, but another organization had come forward in the hopes of finding. Among headlines that had been broadcasted many times already were new headlines, such as “Vatican Confirms Holy Grail Unearthed” and “Reward Offered for Recovery of Stolen Vatican Property.”
“I know that your opinion of us might not be the best right now,” the scientist continued, “but I can assure you that you are among friends.”
“What do you want from me?” I demanded, scared beyond reason.
“You have done each of our families a service of more than two centuries in the making,” the other male added, “and we could not have thought of a better way of showing our gratitude, than by including you in our celebration.”
“What are you talking about?” I demanded, trying to hide my fear behind anger.
“For nearly 2,000 years,” the female added, “our fathers have searched for what you managed to find in only one day.”
While she was speaking, the scientist made his way toward a desk in a corner of the room. He retrieved a collection of papers and poured a cup of coffee from a coffee pot before offering me a drink. When I refused, he forcefully threw the cup away in anger, which undoubtedly scared me, but I was now aware of his short temper and able to figure how I could use it to my advantage.
He displayed the papers at an angle that I could easily read. I could only bear to read the reports for a few seconds, as several thoughts began running through my mind and I realized what was going on. The information on the papers was more than enough to tell me that I had uncovered something that should have never been found to begin with.
“As you can see by the results of our tests,” the scientist said, “we were able to find traces of salivary DNA and fingerprints of thirteen people. Do you want to guess their identities?”
After a few seconds of shocked disbelief, I choked through the words, “I would have imagined that a cup of such importance would have been a little more decorated than that.”
“Sorry to disappoint you, kid,” the female answered, “but people in that time were generally poor. A gold cup, lined with gemstones, is an exaggerated image, portrayed by Hollywood to make it appear more important than it actually was.”
“What are you planning to do with it?” I bitterly asked. “Since you had to steal something that you couldn’t find on your own, I expect you’ll destroy the cup; but are you going to murder me, too, to keep me from tattling on your group of glorified Gothic misfits?”
“I would watch your tongue, if I was you,” the woman threatened, retrieving a knife from the sleeve of her robe, “or we just might take your idea into consideration.”
“We wouldn’t kill you just yet,” the scientist added, keeping the woman from threatening me any further. “You’ve done us a great service, and we owe you a deep debt of gratitude. Before we get to the feature presentation of the evening, however, I thought it would be appropriate if we introduce ourselves.”
“Thanks for your generosity,” I sarcastically answered.
“My name is (witheld),” the scientist started, “and I trace my family to Judas Iscariot.”
“My name is (witheld),” the female said, “my distant grandfather was Pontius Pilate.”
“I am (witheld),” the male added, “my family tree stems from a man named Caiaphas.”
“We are the twentieth generation of hated families,” the scientist continued. “Although our ancestors helped to fulfilled a Biblical prophecy, they cursed their descendants to lives of shame; namely us.”
“Is there a point to your pity party?” I asked, with terrified sarcasm still obvious.
“None that you would understand,” he angrily answered, grasping my throat. “Even if your ancestor assassinated a president, their legacy would still be better than my ancestor’s. Someone like you would never understand how it feels to know that you were socialized garbage before you were even born.”
The woman, building upon the scientist’s comment in a blasphemous and satirical tone, opened a Bible and read a verse out loud, “‘Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.’ Do you see where we fit into this picture?”
“Our ancestors repented for what they had done,” the scientist continued, “but their sins were not as easily forgotten amongst their peers. Even if they became the most faithful of the Christian faith, people do not simply forget the murder of a religious icon. Our families have been branded as social outcasts by every generation that has followed.”
“Destroying that cup will not erase the meaning it carries,” I tried to reason. “Even if this is a backhanded compliment to the small amount of dignity that your satanically-influenced families had, the symbolic blood that that cup carried represents more than just a piece of pottery. Destroying it will only add to the misery you will place upon yourselves and your children.”
“Our lineage ends tonight,” the male accomplice concluded, reaching into the sleeve of his robe and retrieving a knife as well. “None of us have children, and so our family lineages will end with our deaths tonight. Before we leave, though, returning our hated blood to the cup and spilling it is the only way to repay the debt that rests upon our heads. Your blood will be a welcomed addition to our sacrifice as well, a symbol of our gratitude that you freed us from our misery.”
“You don’t have to do this,” I pleaded, trying to buy time to piece together an escape plan. “What your ancestors did was not your fault, and society has unfairly placed the blame upon you for too long. Everyone should know that you would have stopped them, had you been given the chance. There are other ways to clear your name that do not involve murders.”
“Do not fear,” the female reassured me. “Your death will not be today. Your purpose to us is of much more importance than death. Someone has to stay behind, to bear the record of our achievement and continue the burden of our misery. We will be able to die in peace, knowing that your failure to protect the symbol of an entire religion is a fate worse than our hated family legacies.”
Realizing that they were not going to kill me helped me to regain enough control of my emotions, but I was not about to allow a group of low-life nobodies destroy one of the most important symbols of an entire religion. They had made several critical mistakes in setting up their ceremonial ritual, and I was already looking for ways to use these mistakes to my advantage. My first chance at escape came when they had originally abducted me; for whatever reason, only my hands had been bound to the chair.
My second chance came when the scientist approached me from behind with the cup in one hand and a knife in his other and said, “I only need a small amount of blood from your right hand, and then we can begin the ceremony.”
I violently flicked my wrists, using the sudden twitch as a disguise that my body had been reacting to physical injury, as soon as I felt the blade touch my hand. My “accidental” reflex caused the blade to graze the rope that bound my hands together, and the scientist must not have thought to reinforce it. On his second attempt, he opened a cut in my hand and collected enough blood to fill the cup roughly one-fourth full.
“May your scar haunt the remainder of your now meaningless life,” he triumphantly boasted, wrapping my hand with gauze and returning to his position within the circle.
After slicing his own arm and contributing to the cup, the scientist passed the knife and the cup to his friends. Using the distraction, I secretly began manipulating the ropes by twisting and pulling at them until they finally gave way and broke. The cup was filled to capacity by this point, and all that remained was for them to destroy the vessel that was holding the “tainted” blood of four “spiritually damned” people.
Although free from the chair, I continued to make it appear as though I was confined to it. My goal was to wait until the three were as distracted as possible before making my strike. As I waited for the right moment, I studied my captors and concluded that the male accomplice was probably the strongest of the three physically; if I could subdue him first, then the odds of surviving a physical confrontation with the other two would be leveled slightly.
Grasping the handle of a sledge hammer in unison, the three raised the hammer over their heads and prepared to smash the cup with a single blow. Whether I was ready or not, I knew that the time for planning had come and gone; any further hesitation would have devastating consequences, and so I grabbed the chair, stood up, and charged at the group with as much momentum as I could build.
To read the finale, click here