Chapter 42

Serve My Purpose

Parker leaned back in his leather office chair and toyed with the carved stone paperweight from his desk as he waited for the phone call that could determine his fate. The paperweight, which was carved in the shape of a human skull with no lower jaw, was crafted from a deep black volcanic stone that occasionally caught the light at just the right angle to reveal a deeper translucent red hough deep within the blackness. Parker ran his fingers across the single row of upper teeth, allowing the sharp incisors to press into his skin until he flinched at the pain and moved on to caress the smooth curves above the prominent eyebrow ridge.

The pain was meditative. It was a reminder that he was still alive, just as the skull itself was a reminder of the fate that awaited all men. It drove him forward, inspiring him to press on and seize what ought rightfully to belong to him, no matter who he needed to take it from or what temporary obstacle might stand in his way.

It was important to remember that at times like this, when his fate rested in the hands of others, he would still be able to climb towards his goals. That was the message of the Society. It was the hope that had carried him forward and upwards through the ranks of an international business conglomerate as large, complex, and unquestionably duplicitous as TeciGem. Kneeling in the Temple of Mortality, after following a trail of clues through the Parisian catacombs, crawling on his hands and knees past rows of chanting brothers along a floor paved with skulls, and pledging his life to the service of the order, the high priest had poured the blood of the sacrifice over his head and told him the sacred truths of the Society.

The phone rang, wrenching Parker back into the present.

He snatched the phone from its cradle and held it to his ear. A male voice spoke to him in a strange, vaguely British accent. “Parker, I presume?”

“That’s me.”

“Tell me, Mr. Parker, where do your allegiances lie?”

“That is a complicated question, especially for a voice on the phone.”

“You have been awaiting my call. I presume that you have been quite eager to hear from me since you received word that the temple of your secret society was profaned and the high priest murdered.”

Parker clenched the skull and willed himself to not throw it through the window of his office. Two months before he probably would have, but he had been skating on thin ice with upper management ever since that bastard Caleb had quit and left him holding all the pieces of the Delvare mess. He took a long, slow breath and set the carved skull on his desk. He studied it for a moment as he listened to the static on the phone line, then replied, “I am loyal to myself.”

“So I presumed. That is something of a mantra to the members of your little cult, I presume.”