The Templar Legacy (Page 11)


DE ROQUEFORT TRIPPED THE FRONT DOOR LOCK AND ENTERED the bookshop. Two of his men followed him inside. The other two were stationed outside to watch the street.

They crept past darkened shelves to the rear of the cluttered ground floor and climbed narrow stairs. No sound betrayed their presence. On the top floor, de Roquefort stepped through an open doorway into a lit apartment. Peter Hansen was ensconced in a chair reading, a beer on the table beside him, a cigarette burning in an ashtray.

Surprise flooded the book dealer's face. "What are you doing here?" Hansen demanded in French.

"We had an arrangement."

The dealer sprang to his feet. "We were outbid. What was I to do?"

"You told me there'd be no problem." His associates moved to the far side of the room, near the windows. He stayed at the door.

"That book sold for fifty thousand kroner. An outrageous price," Hansen said.

"Who outbid you?"

"The auction will not reveal such information."

De Roquefort wondered if Hansen thought him that stupid. "I paid you to ensure that Stephanie Nelle was the purchaser."

"And I tried. But no one told me the book would go for such a price. I stayed with the bidding, but she waved me off. Were you willing to pay more than fifty thousand kroner?"

"I would have paid whatever it took."

"You weren't there, and she was not as determined." Hansen seemed to relax, the initial surprise replaced with a smugness de Roquefort fought hard to ignore. "And besides, what makes that book so valuable?"

He surveyed the tight room, which reeked of alcohol and nicotine. Hundreds of books lay scattered among stacks of newspapers and magazines. He wondered how anyone lived in such disarray. "You tell me."

Hansen shrugged. "I have no idea. She wouldn't say why she wanted it."

De Roquefort's patience was wearing thin. "I know who outbid you."


"As you well know, the attendants at the auction are negotiable. Ms. Nelle contacted you to act as her agent. I contacted you to make sure she obtained the book so that I might have a copy before you turned it over to her. Then you arranged for a telephone bidder."

Hansen smiled. "Took you long enough to figure that one out."

"Actually it took me only a few moments, once I had information."

"Since I now have control of the book and Stephanie Nelle is out of the picture, what is it worth for just you to have it?"

De Roquefort already knew what course he would be taking. "Actually, the question is, how much is the book worth to you?"

"It means nothing to me."

He motioned and his two associates grabbed Hansen's arms. De Roquefort jammed a fist into the book dealer's abdomen. Hansen spit out a breath, then slumped forward, held upright by his limbs.

"I wanted Stephanie Nelle to have the book, after I made a copy," de Roquefort said. "That was what I paid you to do. Nothing more. You once possessed a use to me. That's no longer the case."

"I . . . have the . . . book."

He shrugged. "That's a lie. I know exactly where the book is."

Hansen shook his head. "You won't . . . get it."

"You're wrong. In fact, it will be an easy matter."

MALONE FLIPPED ON THE FLUORESCENT LIGHTS OVER THE HISTORY section. Books of every shape, size, and color consumed the black lacquered shelves. But there was one volume in particular he recalled from a few weeks back. He'd bought it, along with several other mid-twentieth-century histories, from an Italian who'd thought his wares worth far more than Malone was willing to pay. Most sellers did not understand that value was a factor of desire, scarcity, and uniqueness. Age was not necessarily important since, just as in the twenty-first century, a lot of junk had always been printed.

He recalled selling a few of the Italian's books, but was hoping that one of them was still around. He could not remember it leaving the store, though one of his employees might have made a sale. But thankfully the book remained on the second row from the bottom, precisely where he'd first placed it.

No dust jacket protected the clothbound cover, which was once surely a deep green, now faded to light lime. Its pages were tissue-thin, gilt-edged, and littered with engravings. The title was still visible in patchy gold lettering.

The Knights of the Temple of Solomon.

The copyright read 1922 and, when he first saw it, Malone had become interested since the Templars were a subject he'd read little about. He knew they were not mere monks, more religious warriors--a sort of spiritualized special forces unit. But his rather simplistic conception was of white-clad men sporting stylish red crosses. A Hollywood stereotype, surely. And he recalled being fascinated as he'd thumbed through the volume.

He carried the book to one of several club chairs that dotted the store, settled himself into the soft folds, and started to read. Gradually, a summary began to formulate.

    By AD 1118 Christians once again controlled the Holy Land. The First Crusade had been a resounding success. And though the Muslims were defeated, their lands confiscated, their cities occupied, they'd not been vanquished. Instead, they remained on the fringe of the newly established Christian kingdoms, wreaking havoc on all who ventured to the Holy Land.

    Safe pilgrimage to holy sites was one of the reasons for the Crusades, and road tolls were the chief revenue source for the newly formed Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem. Pilgrims were streaming by the day into the Holy Land, arriving alone, in pairs, groups, or sometimes as entire uprooted communities. Unfortunately, the roads in and out were not secure. Muslims lay in wait, bandits roamed freely, even Christian soldiers were a threat since pillage was, to them, a normal course of forage.

    So when a knight from Champagne, Hugh de Payens, founded a new movement consisting of himself and eight others, a monastic order of fighting brothers dedicated to providing safe passage to pilgrims, the concept was met with widespread approval. Baldwin II, who ruled Jerusalem, granted the new order shelter under the al Aqsa mosque, a place Christians believed to be the former Temple of Solomon, so the new order took its name from its headquarters: the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and the Temple of Solomon at Jerusalem.

    The brotherhood initially stayed small. Each knight pledged vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They owned nothing individually. All of their worldly goods became the Order's. They lived in common and took their meals in silence. They cropped their hair, but let their beards grow. Charity supplied their food and clothing and St. Augustine provided the model for their monasticism. The Order's seal was particularly symbolic: two knights riding a single mount--a clear reference to the days when knights could not afford their own horse.

    A religious order of fighting men was not, to the medieval mind, a contradiction. Instead, the new Order appealed to both religious fervor and martial prowess. Its creation also solved another problem--that of manpower--since now there existed a constant presence of trusted fighters.

    By 1128 the fellowship had expanded, finding political support in powerful places. European princes and prelates donated land, money, and materials. The pope ultimately sanctioned the Order, and soon the Knights Templar became the only standing army in the Holy Land.

    A strict Rule of 686 laws governed them. Hunting was forbidden. No gaming, hawking, or gambling. Speech was practiced sparingly and without laughter. Ornamentation was banned. They slept with the lights on, dressed in shirts, vests, and pantaloons, ready for battle.

    The master was absolute ruler. Next were the seneschals, who acted as deputies and advisers. Marshals commanded troops during battles. Servientes in Latin, sergents in French, were the craftsmen, laborers, and attendants who supported the brother knights and formed the backbone of the Order. By a papal decree in 1148, each knight wore the red cross patee of four equal arms, wide at the ends, atop a white mantle. They were the first disciplined, equipped, and regulated standing army since Roman times. The brother knights participated in each of the subsequent Crusades, being the first into the fray, the last to retreat, and never were they ransomed. They believed service to the Order would clean their slate with heaven and, over the course of two hundred years of constant warring, twenty thousand Templars gained their martyrdom by dying in battle.

    In 1139 a papal bull placed the Order under the exclusive control of the pope, which allowed it to operate freely throughout Christendom, unaffected by monarchs. It was an unprecedented action and, as the Order gained political and economic strength, it amassed a huge reserve of wealth. Kings and patriarchs left great sums in their wills. Loans were made to barons and merchants on the promise that their houses, lands, vineyards, and gardens would pass to the Order at their death. Pilgrims were given safe transport to and from the Holy Land in return for generous donations. By the beginning of the fourteenth century the Templars rivaled the Genovese, the Lombards, and even the Jews as controllers of currency. The kings of France and England kept their treasury in the Order's vaults. Even the Muslims banked with them.

    The Order's Paris Temple became the center of the world's currency market. Slowly, the organization evolved into a financial and military complex, both self-supporting and self-regulating. Eventually Templar property, some 9,000 estates, was wholly exempt from taxation, and that unique position led to conflicts with local clergy since their churches suffered while Templar lands prospered. Competition from other Orders, particularly the Knights Hospitallers, only heightened tension.

    During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries control of the Holy Land seesawed back and forth between Christian and Arab. The rise of Saladin, as ruler of the Muslims, provided the Arabs with their first great military leader, and Christian Jerusalem finally fell in 1187. In the chaos that followed the Templars confined their activities to Acre, a fortified stronghold close to the Mediterranean shore. For the next hundred years they languished in the Holy Land but flourished in Europe, where they established an extensive network of churches, abbeys, and estates. When Acre fell in 1291, the Order lost both its last base in the Holy Land and its purpose for existence.

    Its own rigid adherence to secrecy, which initially set it apart, eventually encouraged slander. Philip IV of France, in 1307, eyeing the vast Templar assets, arrested many of the brothers. Other monarchs followed suit. Seven years of accusations and trials followed. Clement V formally dissolved the Order in 1312. The final blow came on March 18, 1314, when the last master, Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake.

Malone kept reading. There was still that tug at the back of his brain--something he'd read when he'd first thumbed through the book weeks ago. Paging through, he read about how, before the suppression in 1307, the Order became expert in seafaring, property development, animal husbandry, agriculture, and, most important, finance. While the Church forbade scientific experimentation, the Templars learned from their enemy, the Arabs, whose culture encouraged independent thought. The Templars also secreted away, much as modern banks scatter wealth among so many vaults, a vast amount of assets. There was even a medieval French verse quoted that aptly described the overly solvent Templars and their sudden disappearance:

The brethren, the masters of the Temple,

who were well filled and ample

with gold and silver and with wealth.

Where are they? How have they fared?

Who had such power that none dared

take aught from them, no man so bold:

forever buying, they never sold.

History had not been kind to the Order. Though they captured the imagination of poets and chroniclers--the Knights of the Grail in Parzival were Templars, as were the demonic antiheroes in Ivanhoe--as the Crusades acquired the label of European aggression and imperialism, the Templars became an integral part of their brutal fanaticism.

Malone continued to scan the book until he finally found the passage he recalled from his first perusal. He knew it was there. His memory never failed him. The words talked of how, on the battlefield, the Templars always displayed a vertical banner divided into two blocks--one black to represent the sin that brother knights had left behind, the other white to symbolize their new life within the Order. The banner was labeled in French. Translated it meant a lofty, noble, glorious state. The term also doubled as the Order's battle cry.

Beauseant. Be glorious.

Precisely the word Red Jacket had uttered as he'd leaped from the Round Tower.

What was happening?

Old motivations stirred inside him. Feelings he'd thought a year of retirement had quelled. Good agents were both inquisitive and cautious. Forget either attribute and something was inevitably overlooked--something potentially disastrous. He'd made that mistake once years ago on one of his early assignments, and his impetuousness cost the life of a hired operative. It would not be the last person he felt responsible for getting killed, but it was the first, and he never forgot his carelessness.

Stephanie was in trouble. No question. She'd ordered him to stay out of her business, so talking to her again would be useless. But maybe Peter Hansen would prove informative.

He glanced at his watch. Late, but Hansen was known as a night owl and should still be up. If not, he'd awaken him.

He tossed the book aside and headed for the door.