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      The Shroud

      By

      Dale Fowler

      Copyright ©2014

      Dale Fowler

      7589 Greenville Circle

      Lake Worth, FI 33467

      All rights reserved. No part of this book can be reproduced, stored in a retrieval program, or transmitted by any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or otherwise, except as may be expressly permitted by the actual copyright statutes or in writing by the author.

      ISBN: 9781456623227

      Published in eBook format by eBookIt.com

       www.eBookIt.com

      Text: Dale Fowler

      Cover Design: Jutta Medina

      The Shroud is a work of fiction. Name, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or events is entirely incidental.

      Manufactured in the United States of America.

      Dedication

      Two long-time friends played a role in getting The Shroud to a published book. Jim Hamric read a screenplay of mine (CRISSCROSS) a couple of years ago and pushed me to write a book version. I have to admit without Jim’s prodding I would have never moved to the book format and as a result, Crisscross was published in August of 2013. Jim helped proof read drafts of both books and I have come to depend on his judgement when the proper communication values are present.

      Another dear friend, Ron McConnell, not only has proofed the books but made some directional changes that added a great deal of continuity to The Shroud. His input elevated the finished product and gave The Shroud a very real sense of adventure and buttoned down loose ends that I didn’t anticipate. His thinking parallels mine which is spooky and great at the same time.

      For their ongoing friendship and interest in my writing, I dedicate The Shroud to them. Thanks again for all you do in helping me iron out my twisted mind and keeping me on the rails for Crisscross and The Shroud. These two friends have been an intricate part of my writing process, but please don’t tell them... I’ll never hear the end of it.

      CHAPTER ONE

      Man of the Cloth

      THE RED FLOWING robe moves side-to-side around the feet and calculated steps of the old priest in front of Dr. Royce Benders. The Doctor focuses on those footsteps unable to admire the long, stained glass lined hallways they walk. The excitement has narrowed his concentration. He did notice the deeply rooted scent of old things trying not to show their age. Of countless hands and ancient sweat that cleaned the wooden archways and glass for hundreds of years, some because of unwavering beliefs and others forced through the bonds of slavery.

      It’s April of 1984, years of science and theology are about to collide for the resurrection of heaven and hell.

      The three priests leading the party make little sound, their feet hit the marble tiles on rubber soled shoes. Dr. Benders’ leather shoes and those of his colleagues strike the floor, a defined tap bouncing off the walls and racing down the hallway letting The Shroud of Turin know of their impending arrival.

      The lead priest stops suddenly. The Doctor almost runs into the frail looking man bearing the red cloth. Dr. Benders glances at Doctors Sanders and King to see if they notice. Both men are eyeing the vaulted ceilings paying little attention to his clumsiness. A young priest off to Dr. Benders’ right gives him a nervous look, slightly smiles and returns his gaze to the stone floor.

      For the first time he can ever remember, Dr. Benders has nervous moisture surfacing on his palms. He is close to the ultimate human relic, the Shroud embracing Jesus in the tomb and what Dr. Benders believes is a gateway to the heavens.

      A number of large keys slide around a metal circle held tightly by the old priest standing inches from the Doctor’s face. The priest selects a key with eyes seemingly familiar on the order, but he hesitates to insert it and let these medical minds brush up against the holiest of Christian artifacts. Maybe the old priest knew or sensed something Dr. Benders is thinking? Would they later bow at his feet or nail him on a cross for those thoughts?

      Doctor Benders’ hands are rubbed on the white smock, but the sweat quickly returns. The locking mechanism is ancient. The key rolls around inside the bowels of the lock, seeking recognition and finally gets it. A large wooden door is pushed open, not happy it creaks and moans at the brazen strangers’ greed and intent.

      The group enters a small room becoming claustrophobic with all six men putting on gloves, masks, and booties on their shoes. The old priest is first to finish; he looks at Dr. Benders and their eyes lock momentarily but his weathered face is covered, little expression escaping. The Doctor needs to focus and let these outside distractions remain outside. He looks inside the medical bag and retrieves a large microscope and a scalpel. Time to be a scientist he asserts to himself. The others in the medical team ready their tool chests to rub, trim, and extract their pound of ancient flesh from the bleeding and tortured body once lying on the linen weave in the throes of death.

      A second key teases the door of the last barrier and the treasure is finally in view. The three priests fall to their knees surrendering to its appearance and Dr. Benders bows down on his. The other scientists watch with a sense of trepidation, more embarrassment than envy. Latin words fill the room from the kneeling priests, not a strange language to any in this inner sanctum.

      The three priests rise and take the glass top from the metal coffin that houses The Shroud’s fully extended fourteen feet of linen cloth and set it against the wall. Everyone can smell the linen’s bad times from the centuries of adulation and ignorant abuse. Primeval smoke from burning buildings and whale oil candles permeate the air. The Shroud is crying out for help, most certainly like the man who was laid on its texture the day of his crucifixion.

      All the priests return to their kneeling position for the next five hours of scientific examination. Notes are written, blood removed, and analysis performed quietly. Dr. Benders rapidly moves past his nervous energy and gets down to business. It is easy to take a small piece of the cloth containing a clot of blood for his DNA work, work he knows will lead to the Second Coming of Christ. On the return flight to Los Angeles he prays for God’s endorsement.

      CHAPTER TWO

      The Ugly Truth

      JIM CIRMAH LOST all interest in playing the pickup soccer or basketball games that seem to occupy most of the seventh grade boys at Mitchell Middle School in Dallas, Texas in 1998. He didn’t want anything to do with the Mitchell Wildcats football team. He had started at linebacker during the sixth grade, a rare accomplishment competing with kids two years older than him.

      His life fell into a grinding existence ever since his mother’s death eight long months before. In spite of the understanding and extra leeway from the football coach and other teachers, he didn’t want to participate in anything requiring one ounce of concentration or focus. The drugs to help make him acclimate back into a young human being only made him angry and short tempered. He’s been in two fights already, looking for a third to brush up against him when the next corner is rounded.

      The accident that killed his mother was not your run-of-the- mill fender bender involving someone drunk or running a red light. Jim heard the term freakish mentioned numerous times when friends and relatives swarmed the house for the few days sandwiched between the accident and funeral. His stepfather, Odis Staymen, used the term “God’s Will” to describe a bird flying from one tree to the next, so it’s no surprise he used it to convey the last moments of his mother’s life.

      Jim didn’t care too much about God’s willingness to direct anything since Odis married his mother four years ago. Only ugliness has any fun in the

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