The Fifth Degree

Prologue

The pain was excruciating, beyond anything he had ever experienced. It felt as if his heart was beating itself to death against his ribcage, trying to escape like a frightened butterfly in a jar. He had never felt such pain before in his life.

The man took in deep halting breaths, nearly causing himself to hyperventilate. Each breath he took did not relieve the growing anguish in his chest. Sweat beaded on his forehead, and his eyes were wide, the whites showing all around as fear grew within his dark orbs.

Then the screaming began. The man didn't even recognize the fact that it was his own voice. The man brought his hands to his head and his back arched off the table. Then he suddenly went limp, his eyes remaining fixed and open to the terror he had felt. His arms fell limp at his sides and blood ran from his slack open mouth.

The figure that stood above the now dead husk simply smiled then walked away.

Kwai Chang Caine was meditating when he felt his chest tighten. The pain was excruciating, and yet, he knew that it was not his own. In his mind he could see the heart of the person explode, blood filling the chest and spilling threw whatever opening it could find.

Caine groaned then slumped onto the floor, nearly unconscious. A few moments later, he tasted the bitter tea that poured threw his lips.

"Kwai Chang Caine, I felt your pain. What has happened?"

The Ancient's face came into focus.

With soft halting words Caine replied, "A man . . . has died. I felt his heart explode from within his chest."

"How is that possible?"

"I . . .. do not know."

"Where was this man?"

Caine shook his head. "I do not . . ."

"Do not say another word, my friend. We shall learn more of this, I am certain. Rest."

Kwai Chang Caine allowed the Ancient to help him lay back on the raised platform and place a round pillow under his head. Caine could see the look of deep concern was on the old man's face. Both asked the same question without needing to voice the words. What could cause a man's heart to suddenly explode? It made no sense. Caine's eyes drifted shut as the Ancient placed a blanket over him.

"Rest my friend. We will discover soon enough just what this vision could mean."

Continues with Part 1