The Templar Legacy (Page 31)



THE SENESCHAL STARED INTO GEOFFREY'S EYES AND SAW HATRED. He'd never seen that emotion there before.

"I've told our new master," Geoffrey said, nudging the gun deeper into de Roquefort's throat, "to stand still or I will shoot him."

The seneschal stepped close and poked a finger beneath the white mantle, into the protective vest. "If we'd not started the gunfire, you would have, right? The idea was for us to be killed while escaping. That way, your problem is solved. I'm eliminated and you're the Order's savior."

De Roquefort said nothing.

"That's why you came here alone. To finish the job yourself. I saw you lock the dormitory door. You wanted no witnesses."

"We must go," Geoffrey said.

He realized the danger that endeavor would entail, but doubted if any of the brothers would risk the master's life. "Where are we going?"

"I'll show you."

Keeping the gun cocked at de Roquefort's neck, Geoffrey led his hostage across the dormitory. The seneschal kept his own gun ready and, at the door, released the latch. In the hall stood five armed men. At the sight of their leader in peril, they raised their guns, ready to fire.

"Lower your aim," de Roquefort ordered.

The guns stayed pointed.

"I command you to lower your weapons. I want no more bloodshed."

The gallant gesture stimulated the desired effect.

"Stand away," Geoffrey said.

The brothers took a few steps backward.

Geoffrey motioned with the gun and he and de Roquefort stepped out into the hall. The seneschal followed. Bells rang in the distance, signaling one PM. Sext prayers would be ending shortly, and the corridors would once again be filled with robed men.

"We need to move quickly," the seneschal made clear.

With his hostage, Geoffrey led the way down the passageway. The seneschal followed, creeping backward, keeping his attention trained on the five brothers.

"Stay there," the seneschal made clear to them.

"Do as he says," de Roquefort called out, as they turned the corner.

DE ROQUEFORT WAS CURIOUS. HOW DID THEY EXPECT TO FLEE the abbey? What had Geoffrey said? I'll show you. He decided the only way to discover anything was to go with them, which was why he'd ordered his men to stand down.

The seneschal had twice shot him. If he'd not been quick, a third bullet would have found his skull. The stakes had clearly been raised. His captors were on a mission, something he believed involved his predecessor and a subject that he desperately needed to know more about. The Denmark excursion had been less than productive. So far nothing had been learned in Rennes-le-Chateau. And though he'd managed to discredit the former master in death, the old man might have reserved the last laugh.

He also did not like the fact that two men had been wounded. Not the best way to start off his tenure. Brothers strived for order. Chaos was seen as weakness. The last time violence had invaded the abbey's walls was when angry mobs tried to gain entrance during the French Revolution--but after several died in the attempt, they'd retreated. The abbey was a place of tranquility and refuge. Violence was taught--and sometimes used--but tempered with discipline. The seneschal had demonstrated a total lack of discipline. Stragglers who may have harbored some fleeting loyalty to him would now be won over by his grievous violations to Rule.

But still, where were these two headed?

They continued down the hallways, passing workshops, the library, more empty corridors. He could hear footfalls behind them, the five brothers following, ready to act when the opportunity arose. But there'd be hell to pay if any of them interfered until he said so.

They stopped before a doorway with carved capitals and a simple iron handle.

The master's quarters.

His chambers.

"In there," Geoffrey said.

"Why?" the seneschal asked. "We'll be trapped."

"Please, go inside."

The seneschal pushed open the door, then engaged the latch after they entered.

De Roquefort was amazed.

And curious.

THE SENESCHAL WAS CONCERNED. THEY WERE NOW IMPRISONED within the master's chamber, the only exit a solitary bull's-eye window that opened to nothing but air. Drops of sweat pebbled his forehead and he swiped the salty moisture from his eyes.

"Sit," Geoffrey ordered de Roquefort, and the man took a seat at the desk.

The seneschal surveyed the room. "I see you've already changed things."

A few more upholstered chairs hugged the walls. A table now stood where there had been nothing before. The bed coverings were different, as were items on the tables and desk.

"This is my home now," de Roquefort said.

He noticed the single sheet of paper on the desk, penned in his mentor's hand. The successor's message, left as required by Rule. He lifted the typewritten page and read.

    Do you think that what you judge to be imperishable will not perish? You base your hope upon the world, and your god is this life. You do not realize that you will be destroyed. You live in darkness and death, drunk with fire, and full of bitterness. Your mind is deranged because of the smoldering fire within you and you are delighted by the poisoning and beating of your enemies. Darkness has risen over you like the light, for you have exchanged your freedom for slavery. You will fail, that is clear.

"Your master thought passages from the Gospel of Thomas relevant," de Roquefort said. "And he apparently believed that I, not you, would wear the white mantle once he was gone. Surely those words were not meant for his chosen one."

No, they weren't. He wondered why his mentor had so little faith in him, especially when, in the hours before he died, he'd encouraged him to seek high office.

"You should listen to him," he made clear.

"His is the advice of a weak soul."

Pounding came from the door. "Master? Are you there?" Unless the brothers were prepared to blast their way inside, there existed little danger of the heavy slabs being forced.

De Roquefort stared up at him.

"Answer," the seneschal said.

"I'm fine. Stand down."

Geoffrey moved toward the window and stared out at the waterfall across the gorge.

De Roquefort placed one knee over the other and leaned back in the chair. "What do you hope to accomplish? This is foolishness."

"Shut up." But the seneschal was wondering the same thing.

"The master left more words," Geoffrey said from across the room.

He and de Roquefort turned as Geoffrey reached into his cassock and produced an envelope. "This is his true final message."

"Give that to me," de Roquefort demanded, rising from the chair.

Geoffrey leveled his gun. "Sit."

De Roquefort stayed on his feet. Geoffrey cocked the weapon and aimed for the legs. "The vest will do you no good."

"You would kill me?"

"I'll cripple you."

De Roquefort sat. "You have a brave compatriot," he said to the seneschal.

"He's a brother of the Temple."

"A shame he will never achieve the oath."

If the words were designed to evoke a response in Geoffrey, they failed.

"You're going nowhere," de Roquefort told them.

The seneschal watched his ally. Geoffrey was again staring out the window, as if waiting for something.

"I'll enjoy seeing you both punished," de Roquefort said.

"I told you to shut up," the seneschal said.

"Your master thought himself clever. I know he wasn't."

He could tell de Roquefort had something more to say. "Okay, I'll bite. What is it?"

"The Great Devise. It's what consumed him and all of the masters. Each wanted to find it, but none succeeded. Your master spent a lot of time researching the subject, and your young friend over there helped him."

The seneschal shot a glance at Geoffrey, but his partner did not turn from the window. He said to de Roquefort, "I thought you were close to finding it. That's what you told the conclave."

"I am."

The seneschal did not believe him.

"Your young friend over there and the late master were quite a team. I've learned that recently they scoured our records with a newfound relish--one that piqued my interest."

Geoffrey turned and stomped across the bedchamber, stuffing the envelope back into his cassock. "You'll learn nothing." The voice approached a shout. "What there is to find is not for you."

"Really?" de Roquefort asked. "And what is there to find?"

"There will be no triumph for the likes of you. The master was right. You are drunk with fire and full of bitterness."

De Roquefort appraised Geoffrey with a stiff countenance. "You and the master learned something, didn't you? I know you sent two parcels in the mail, and I even know to whom. I've tended to one of the receivers and will shortly tend to the other. Soon I'll know all that you and he knew."

Geoffrey's right arm swung out and the gun he held slammed into de Roquefort's temple. The master teetered, stunned, then his eyes rolled skyward and he collapsed to the floor.

"Was that necessary?" the seneschal asked.

"He should be glad that I didn't shoot him. But the master made me promise I wouldn't harm the fool."

"You and I need to have a serious talk."

"First, we have to leave."

"I don't think the brothers out in the hall are going to allow that."

"They're not our problem."

He could sense something. "You know the way out of here?"

Geoffrey smiled. "The master was quite clear."