SIGN OF THE CROSS
Monday, July 10
(30 miles north of Copenhagen)
Erik Jansen was about to die. He just didn’t know how. Or why.
After saying a short prayer, he lifted his head and tried to regain his bearings but couldn’t see a thing. Saltwater burned his eyes and blurred his vision. He tried to wipe his face, but his hands were bound behind him, wrapped in thick layers of rope and attached to the frame of the boat. His legs were secured as well, tied even tighter than his arms, which meant there was no hope for escape. He was at their mercy. Whoever they were.
They had grabbed him as he left his apartment and forced him into the back of a van. Very quiet, very professional. No time for him to make a scene. Within seconds they had knocked him out with a narcotic. He awakened hours later, no longer in the bustling city but on the open sea. Day was now night. His freedom was now gone. His life was nearly over.
Jansen was tempted to scream but knew that would only make things worse. These weren’t the type of men who made mistakes. He could tell. If help was nearby, they would’ve gagged him. Or cut out his tongue. Or both. No way they would’ve risked getting caught. He had known them for less than a day but knew that much. These men were professionals, hired to kill him for some ungodly reason. Now it was just a matter of time.
When their boat reached the shore, Jansen felt the rocks as they scraped against the bottom of the hull. The sound filled the air like a primeval wail, yet none of them seemed to care. It was the middle of the night, and the coast was deserted. No one would come running. No one would come to save him. It was in God’s hands now, as it always was.
Suddenly, one of the men leapt over the side and splashed into the icy water. He grabbed the boat with both hands and eased it onto the narrow beach, just below a footpath. The other three followed his lead and soon the boat was hidden in the trees that lined this section of the island.
They had traveled over a thousand miles but were just getting started.
Without saying a word, they loosened the ropes and lifted Jansen from the boat, placing him on their broad shoulders for the journey inland. Jansen sensed this might be his last chance to escape so he flailed back and forth like an angry fish trying to break free of their grasp, yet all he did was upset them. In response they slammed his face into the jagged rocks, breaking his nose, shattering his teeth, and knocking him unconscious. Then they picked him up and carried him to the place where he would die.
One of the men cut off Jansen’s clothes while the others built the cross. It was seven-feet wide and ten-feet high and made out of African oak. The wood was pre-cut so the planks slid into place with little effort. When they were finished, it looked like a giant T spread across the freshly cut grass. They knew most people would be confused by the shape but not the experts. They would know it was authentic. Just like it was supposed to be. Just like it had been.
In silence they dragged Jansen to the cross and positioned his arms on the patibulum—the horizontal beam—and put his legs on the stipes. Once they were satisfied, the largest of the men took a mallet and drove a wrought-iron spike through Jansen’s right wrist. Blood squirted like a cherry geyser, spraying the worker’s face, but he refused to stop until the nail hit the ground. He repeated the process on Jansen’s left wrist then moved to his legs.
Since Jansen was unconscious, they were able to place his feet in the proper position: left foot on top of the right, toes pointed downward, which would please their bosses to no end. One spike through the arch in both feet, straight through the metatarsals.
Perfect. Simply perfect. Just like it needed to be.
Once Jansen was in place, out came the spear. A long wooden spear. Topped with an iron tip that had been forged to specifications. The largest of the men grabbed it and without blinking an eye rammed it into Jansen’s side. No empathy. No regret. He actually laughed as he cracked Jansen’s ribs and punctured his lung. The other men followed his lead, laughing at the dying man as blood gushed from his side. Laughing like the Romans had so many years before.
The leader checked his watch and smiled. They were still on schedule. Within minutes, they would be back on the boat. Within hours, they would be in a different country.
All that remained was the sign. A hand-painted sign. It would be nailed to the top of the cross, high above the victim’s head. It was their way of claiming responsibility, their way of announcing their intent. It said one thing, one simple phrase. Six words that were known throughout the world. Six words that would doom Christianity and rewrite the word of God.
IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER.