The Templar Legacy (Page 42)


DE ROQUEFORT SAT IN THE PASSENGER SEAT AND CONCENTRATED on the GPS screen. The transponder attached to Malone's rental car was working perfectly, the tracking signal transmitting strongly. One brother drove while Claridon and another brother occupied the rear seat. De Roquefort was still irritated with Claridon's interference back in Rennes. He had no intention of dying and would have eventually leaped out of the way, but he'd truly wanted to see if Cotton Malone possessed the resolve to drive through him.

The brother who'd fallen down the rocky incline had died, shot in the chest before he fell. A Kevlar vest had prevented the bullet from doing any damage, but the fall had broken the man's neck. Thankfully, none of them carried identification, but the vest was a problem. Equipment like that signaled sophistication, but nothing linked the dead man to the abbey. All the brothers knew Rule. If any of them were killed outside the abbey, their bodies would go unidentified. Like the brother who'd leaped from the Round Tower, Renne's casualty would end up in a regional morgue, his remains eventually consigned to a pauper's grave. But before that happened, procedure called for the master to dispatch a clergyman, who would claim the remains in the name of the Church, offering to provide a Christian burial at no cost to the state. Never had that offer been refused. And while arousing no suspicion, the gesture ensured that a brother received his proper internment.

He'd not rushed leaving Rennes, first searching Lars Nelle's and Ernst Scoville's houses and finding nothing. His men had reported that Geoffrey had carried a rucksack, which was handed over to Mark Nelle in the car park. Surely it contained the two stolen books.

"Any idea where they went?" Claridon asked from the backseat.

He pointed to the screen. "We'll know shortly."

After questioning the injured brother who'd eavesdropped on Claridon's conversation inside Lars Nelle's house, he'd learned that Geoffrey had said precious little, obviously suspicious of Claridon's motivations. Sending Claridon in there had been a mistake. "You assured me you could find those books."

"Why do we need them? We have the journal. We should be concentrating on deciphering what we have."

Maybe, but it bothered him that Mark Nelle had chosen those two volumes from the thousands in the archives. "What if they contain information different from the journal?"

"Do you know how many versions of the same information I've come across? The entire Rennes story is a series of contradictions stacked atop one another. Let me explore your archives. Tell me what you know and let's see what, together, we have."

A good idea, but unfortunately--contrary to what he'd led the Order to believe--he knew precious little. He'd been counting on the master leaving the requisite message for his successor, in which the most coveted information was always passed from leader to leader, as had been done from the time of de Molay. "You'll get that opportunity. But first we must take care of this."

He thought again of the two dead brothers. Their deaths would be seen by the collective as an omen. For a religious society heaped in discipline, the Order was astoundingly superstitious. And violent death was not common--yet two had occurred in a matter of days. His leadership could now well be questioned. Too much, too fast would be the cry. And he'd be forced to listen to all objections since he'd openly challenged the last master's legacy, in part because that man had ignored the brothers' wishes.

He asked the driver for an interpretation of the GPS readout. "How far to their vehicle?"

"Twelve kilometers."

He gazed out beyond the car windows at the French countryside. Once, no stretch of sky had been true to the eye unless a tower rose on the horizon. By the twelfth century Templars had populated this land with well over a third of their total estates. The entire Languedoc should have become a Templar state. He'd read of plans in the Chronicles. How fortresses, outposts, supply depots, farms, and monasteries had all been strategically established, each connected by a series of maintained roads. For two hundred years the brotherhood's strength had been carefully preserved, and when the Order failed to establish a fiefdom in the Holy Land, eventually surrendering Jerusalem back to the Muslims, the aim had been to succeed in the Languedoc. All was well under way when Philip IV struck his death blow. Interestingly, Rennes-le-Chateau was never mentioned in the Chronicles. The town, in all of its previous incarnations, played no role in Templar history. There'd been Templar fortifications in other parts of the Aude Valley, but nothing at Rhedae, as the occupied summit was then called. Yet now the tiny village seemed an epicenter, and all because of an ambitious priest and an inquisitive American academician.

"We're approaching the car," the driver said.

He'd already instructed caution. The other three brothers he'd brought to Rennes were returning to the abbey, one with a flesh wound to his thigh after Geoffrey shot at him. That made three wounded men, along with two dead. He'd sent word that he wanted a council with his officers when he returned to the abbey, which should quell any discontent, but first he needed to know where his quarry had gone.

"Up ahead," the driver said. "Fifty meters."

He stared out the window and wondered about Malone and company's choice of refuge. Odd that they would come here.

The driver stopped the car, and they climbed out.

Parked cars surrounded them.

"Bring the handheld unit."

They walked and, twenty meters later, the man holding the portable receiver stopped. "Here."

De Roquefort stared at the vehicle. "That's not the car they left Rennes in."

"The signal is strong."

He motioned. The other brother searched beneath and found the magnetic transponder.

He shook his head and stared at the walls of Carcassonne, which stretched skyward ten meters away. The grassy area before him had once formed the town moat. Now it served as a car park for the thousands of visitors who came each day to see one of the last existing walled cities from the Middle Ages. The time-tanned stones had stood when Templars roamed the surrounding land. They'd borne witness to the Albigensian Crusade and the many wars thereafter. And never once were they breached--truly a monument to strength.

But they said something about cleverness, too.

He knew the local myth, from when Muslims controlled the town for a short time in the eighth century. Eventually, Franks came from the north to reclaim the site and, true to their way, laid a long siege. During a sally the Moorish king was killed, which left the task of defending the walls to his daughter. She was the clever one, creating an illusion of greater numbers by sending the few troops she possessed running from tower to tower and stuffing the clothing of the dead with straw. Food and water eventually ran out for both sides. Finally, the daughter ordered the last sow be caught and fed the final bushel of corn. She then hurled the pig out over the walls. The animal smashed into the earth and its belly burst forth with grain. The Franks were shocked. After such a long siege, apparently the infidels still possessed enough food to feed their pigs. So they withdrew.

A myth, he was sure, but an interesting tale of ingenuity.

And Cotton Malone had shown ingenuity, too, transferring the electronic tag to another vehicle.

"What is it?" Claridon asked.

"We've been led astray."

"This is not their car?"

"No, monsieur." He turned and started back for their vehicle. Where had they gone? Then a thought occurred to him. He stopped. "Would Mark Nelle know of Cassiopeia Vitt?"

"Oui," Claridon said. "He and his father discussed her."

Is it possible that was where they'd gone? Vitt had interfered three times of late, and always on Malone's side. Maybe he sensed an ally there.

"Come." And he started for the car again.

"What do we do now?" Claridon wanted to know.

"We pray."

Claridon still had not moved. "For what?"

"That my instincts are accurate."


MALONE WAS FURIOUS. HENRIK THORVALDSEN HAD KNOWN FAR more about everything and had said absolutely nothing. He pointed at Cassiopeia. "She one of your friends?"

"I've known her a long time."

"When Lars Nelle was alive. You know her then?"

Thorvaldsen nodded.

"And did Lars know of your relationship?"


"So you played him for a fool, too." Anger punctuated his voice.

The Dane seemed forced to submerge his defensiveness. After all, he was cornered. "Cotton, I understand your irritation. But one can't always be forthcoming. Multiple angles have to be explored. I'm sure that when you worked for the U.S. government you did the same thing."

He did not rise to the bait.

"Cassiopeia kept watch on Lars. He knew of her, and in his eyes, she was a nuisance. But her real chore was to protect him."

"Why not just tell him?"

"Lars was a stubborn man. It was simpler for Cassiopeia to watch him quietly. Unfortunately, she could not protect him from himself."

Stephanie stepped forward, her face set for combat. "This is what his profile warned about. Questionable motives, shifting allegiances, deceit."

"I resent that." Thorvaldsen glared at her. "Especially since Cassiopeia looked after you two, as well."

On that point Malone could not argue. "You should have told us."

"To what end? As I recall, you both were intent on coming to France--especially you, Stephanie. So what would have been gained? Instead, I made sure Cassiopeia was there, in case you needed her."

Malone wasn't going to accept that hollow explanation. "For one thing, Henrik, you could have provided us with background on Raymond de Roquefort, whom you both obviously know. Instead, we went in blind."

"There's little to tell," Cassiopeia said. "When Lars was alive all the brothers did was watch him, too. I never made actual contact with de Roquefort. That's only happened during the past couple of days. I know as much about him as you do."

"Then how did you anticipate his moves in Copenhagen?"

"I didn't. I simply followed you."

"I never sensed you there."

"I'm good at what I do."

"You weren't so good in Avignon. I spotted you at the cafe."

"And your trick with the napkin, dropping it so you could see if I was following? I wanted you to know I was there. Once I saw Claridon, I knew de Roquefort would not be far behind. He's watched Royce for years."

"Claridon told us about you," Malone said, "but he didn't recognize you in Avignon."

"He's never seen me. What he knows is only what Lars Nelle told him."

"Claridon never mentioned that fact," Stephanie said.

"There's a lot I'm sure Royce failed to mention. Lars never realized, but Claridon was far more of a problem for him than I ever was."

"My father hated you," Mark said, disdain in his tone.

Cassiopeia appraised him with a cool countenance. "Your father was a brilliant man, but he was not schooled in human nature. His was a simplistic view of the world. The conspiracies he sought, the ones you explored after he died, are far more complicated than either of you could imagine. This is a quest for knowledge that men have died seeking."

"Mark," Thorvaldsen said, "what Cassiopeia says about your father is true, as I'm sure you realize."

"He was a good man who believed in what he did."

"He was, indeed. But he likewise kept many things to himself. You never knew he and I were close friends, and I regret you and I never came to know one another. But your father wanted our contacts confidential, and I respected his desire even after his death."

"You could have told me," Stephanie said.

"No, I couldn't."

"Then why are you talking to us now?"

"When you and Cotton left Copenhagen, I came straight here. I realized you would eventually find Cassiopeia. That's precisely why she was in Rennes two nights ago--to draw you in her direction. Originally, I was to stay in the background and you were not to know of our connection, but I changed my mind. This has gone too far. You need to know the truth, so I'm here to tell it to you."

"So good of you," Stephanie said.

Malone stared at the older man's hooded eyes. Thorvaldsen was right. He'd played both ends against the middle many times. Stephanie had, too. "Henrik, I haven't been a player in this kind of game in more than a year. I got out because I didn't want to play anymore. Lousy rules, bad odds. But at the moment I'm hungry and, I have to say, curious. So let's eat, and you tell us all about that truth we need to know."

Lunch was a roasted rabbit seasoned with parsley, thyme, and marjoram, along with fresh asparagus, a salad, and a currant dessert topped with vanilla cream. While he ate, Malone tried to assess the situation. Their hostess seemed the most at ease, but he was unimpressed with her cordiality.

"You specifically challenged de Roquefort last night in the palace," he said to her. "Where'd you learn your craft?"

"Self-taught. My father passed to me his boldness, and my mother blessed me with an insight into the male mind."

Malone smiled. "One day you may guess wrong."

"I'm glad you care about my future. Did you ever guess wrong as an American agent?"

"Many times, and folks died from it occasionally."

"Henrik's son on that list?"

He resented the jab, particularly considering she knew nothing of what happened. "Like here, people were given bad information. Bad information leads to bad decisions."

"The young man died."

"Cai Thorvaldsen was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Stephanie made clear.

"Cotton is right," Henrik said as he stopped eating. "My son died because he was not alerted to the danger around him. Cotton was there and did what he could."

"I didn't mean to imply that he was to blame," Cassiopeia said. "It was only that he seemed anxious to tell me how to run my business. I simply wondered if he could run his own. After all, he did quit."

Thorvaldsen sighed. "You have to forgive her, Cotton. She's brilliant, artistic, a cognoscenta in music, a collector of antiques. But she inherited her father's lack of manners. Her mother, God rest her precious soul, was more refined."

"Henrik fancies himself my surrogate father."

"You're lucky," Malone said, scrutinizing her carefully, "that I didn't shoot you off that motorcycle in Rennes."

"I didn't expect you to escape the Tour Magdala so quickly. I'm sure the domain operators are quite upset about the loss of that casement window. It was an original, I believe."

"I'm waiting to hear that truth you spoke about," Stephanie said to Thorvaldsen. "You asked me in Denmark to keep an open mind about you and what Lars thought important. Now we see that your involvement is far more than any of us realized. Surely, you can understand how we'd be suspicious."

Thorvaldsen laid down his fork. "All right. What's the extent of your knowledge about the New Testament?"

An odd question, Malone thought. But he knew Stephanie was a practicing Catholic.

"Among other things, it contains the four Gospels--Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John--which tell us about Jesus Christ."

Thorvaldsen nodded. "History is clear that the New Testament, as we know it, was formulated during the first four centuries after Christ as a way to universalize the emerging Christian message. After all, that's what catholic means--'universal.' Remember, unlike today, in the ancient world politics and religion were one and the same. As paganism declined, and Judaism retreated within itself, people began searching for something new. The followers of Jesus, who were merely Jews embracing a different perspective, formed their own version of the Word, but so did the Carpocratians, the Essenes, the Naassenes, the Gnostics, and a hundred other emerging sects. The main reason the Catholic version survived, while others faltered, was its ability to impose its belief universally. They grafted onto the Scriptures so much authority that eventually no one could question their validity without being deemed a heretic. But there are many problems with the New Testament."

The Bible was a favorite of Malone's. He'd read it and much historical analysis and knew all about its inconsistencies. Each Gospel was a murky mixture of fact, rumor, legend, and myth that had been subjected to countless translations, edits, and redactions.

"Remember, the emerging Christian Church existed in the Roman world," Cassiopeia was saying. "In order to attract followers, the Church fathers had to compete not only with a variety of pagan beliefs, but also their own Jewish beliefs. They also needed to set themselves apart. Jesus had to be more than a mere prophet."

Malone was becoming impatient. "What does this have to do with what's happening here?"

"Think what finding the bones of Christ would mean for Christianity," Cassiopeia said. "That religion revolves around Christ dying on the cross, resurrecting, and ascending into heaven."

"That belief is a matter of faith," Geoffrey quietly said.

"He's right," Stephanie said. "Faith, not fact, defines it."

Thorvaldsen shook his head. "Let's remove that element from the equation for a moment, since faith also eliminates logic. Think about this. If a man named Jesus existed, how would the chroniclers of the New Testament know anything about His life? Just consider the language dilemma. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. The New was penned in Greek, and any source materials, if they even existed, would have been in Aramaic. Then there's the issue of the sources themselves.

"Matthew and Luke tell of Christ's temptation in the wilderness, but Jesus was alone when that occurred. And Jesus's prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke says He uttered it after leaving Peter, James, and John a stone's throw away. When Jesus returned He found the disciples asleep and was immediately arrested, then crucified. There's absolutely no mention of Jesus ever saying a word about the prayer in the garden or the temptation in the wilderness. Yet we know its every detail. How?

"All of the Gospels speak of the disciples fleeing at Jesus's arrest--so none of them was there--yet detailed accounts of the crucifixion are recorded in all four. Where did these details come from? What the Roman soldiers did, what Pilate and Simon did. How would the Gospel writers know any of that? The faithful would say the information came from God's inspiration. But the four Gospels, these so-called Words of God, conflict with each other far more than they agree. Why would God offer only confusion?"

"Maybe that's not for us to question," Stephanie said.

"Come now," Thorvaldsen said. "There are too many examples of contradictions for us to simply dismiss them as intentional. Let's look at it in generalities. John's Gospel mentions much that the other three--the so-called synoptic Gospels--completely ignore. The tone in John is also different, the message more refined. John's is like an entirely different testimony. But some of the more precise inconsistencies start with Matthew and Luke. Those are the only two that say anything of Jesus's birth and ancestry, and even they conflict. Matthew says Jesus was an aristocrat, descended from David, in line to be king. Luke agrees with the David connection, but points to a lesser class. Mark went an entirely different direction and spawned the image of a poor carpenter.

"Jesus's birth is likewise told from differing perspectives. Luke says shepherds visited. Matthew called them wise men. Luke said the holy family lived in Nazareth and journeyed to Bethlehem for a birth in a manger. Matthew says the family was well off and lived in Bethlehem, where Jesus was born--not in a manger, but in a house.

"But the crucifixion is where the greatest inconsistencies exist. The Gospels don't even agree on the date. John says the day before Passover, the other three say the day after. Luke described Jesus as meek. A lamb. Matthew goes the other way--for him Jesus brings not peace, but the sword. Even the Savior's final words varied. Matthew and Mark say it was, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Luke says, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. John is even simpler. It is finished."

Thorvaldsen paused and sipped his wine.

"And the tale of the resurrection itself is completely riddled with contradictions. Each Gospel has a different version of who went to the tomb, what was found there--even the days of the week are unclear. And as to Jesus's appearances after the resurrection--none of the accounts agree on any point. Would you not think that God would have at least been reasonably consistent with His Word?"

"Gospel variations have been the subject of thousands of books," Malone made clear.

"True," Thorvaldsen said. "And the inconsistencies have been there from the beginning--largely ignored in ancient times, since rarely did the four Gospels appear together. Instead, they were disseminated individually throughout Christendom--one tale working better in some places than in others. Which, in and of itself, goes a long way toward explaining the differences. Remember, the idea behind the Gospels was to demonstrate that Jesus was the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament--not to be an irrefutable biography."

"Weren't the Gospels just a recording of what had been passed down orally?" Stephanie asked. "Wouldn't errors be expected?"

"No question," Cassiopeia said. "The early Christians believed Jesus would return soon and the world would end, so they saw no need to write anything down. But after fifty years, with the Savior still not having returned, it became important to memorialize Jesus's life. That's when the earliest Gospel, Mark's, was written. Matthew and Luke came next, around 80 C.E. John came much later, near the end of the first century, which is why his is so different from the other three."

"If the Gospels were entirely consistent, wouldn't they be even more suspect?" Malone asked.

"These books are more than simply inconsistent," Thorvaldsen said. "They are, quite literally, four different versions of the Word."

"It's a matter of faith," Stephanie repeated.

"There's that word again," Cassiopeia said. "Whenever a problem exists with biblical texts, the solution is easy. It's faith. Mr. Malone, you're a lawyer. If the testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were offered in a court as proof Jesus existed, would any jury so find?"

"Sure, all of them mention Jesus."

"Now, if that same court was required to state which one of the four books is correct, how would it rule?"

He knew the right answer. "They're all correct."

"So how would you resolve the differences among the testimonies?"

He didn't answer, because he didn't know what to say.

"Ernst Scoville did a study once," Thorvaldsen said. "Lars told me about it. He determined that there was a ten to forty percent variation among the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke on any passage you cared to compare. Any passage. And with John, which is not one of the synoptics, the percentage was much higher. So Cassiopeia's question is fair, Cotton. Would these four testimonies have any probative value, beyond establishing that a man named Jesus may have lived?"

He felt compelled to say, "Could all of the inconsistencies be explained by the writers simply taking liberties with an oral tradition?"

Thorvaldsen nodded. "That explanation makes sense. But what compounds its acceptance is that nasty word faith. You see, to millions, the Gospels are not the oral traditions of radical Jews establishing a new religion, trying to secure converts, recounting their tale with additions and subtractions necessary for their particular time. No. The Gospels are the Word of God, and the resurrection is its keystone. For their Lord to have sent His son to die for them, and for Him to be physically resurrected and ascend into heaven--that set them far apart from all other emerging religions."

Malone faced Mark. "Did the Templars believe this?"

"There's an element of Gnosticism to the Templar creed. Knowledge is passed to the brothers in stages, and only the highest in the Order know all. But no one has known that knowledge since the loss of the Great Devise during the 1307 Purge. All of the masters who came after that time were denied the Order's archive."

He wanted to know, "What do they think of Jesus Christ today?"

"The Templars look equally to both the Old and New Testaments. In their eyes, the Jewish prophets in the Old Testament predicted the Messiah, and the writers of the New Testament fulfilled those predictions."

"It is like the Jews," Thorvaldsen said, "of whom I may speak since I am one. Christians for centuries have said that Jews failed to recognize the Messiah when He came, which was why God created a new Israel in the form of the Christian Church--to take the place of the Jewish Israel."

"His blood be upon us and upon our children," Malone muttered, quoting what Matthew had said about the Jews' willingness to accept that blame.

Thorvaldsen nodded. "That phrase has been used for two millennia as a reason for killing Jews. What could a people expect from God when they'd rejected His own son as their Messiah? Words that some unknown Gospel writer penned, for whatever reason, became the rally cry of murderers."

"So what Christians finally did," Cassiopeia said, "was separate themselves from that past. They named half the Bible the Old Testament, the other the New. One was for Jews, the other for Christians. The twelve tribes of Israel in the Old were replaced by the twelve apostles in the New. Pagan and Jewish beliefs were assimilated and modified. Jesus, through the writings of the New Testament, fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, thereby proving His messianic claim. A perfectly assembled package--the right message, tailored to the right audience--all of which allowed Christianity to utterly dominate the Western world."

Attendants appeared, and Cassiopeia signaled for them to clear away the lunch dishes. Wineglasses were refilled and coffee was passed around. As the last attendant withdrew, Malone asked Mark, "Do the Templars believe in the actual resurrection of Christ?"

"Which ones?"

A strange question. Malone shrugged.

"Those today--of course. With few exceptions, the Order follows traditional Catholic doctrine. Some adjustments are made to conform to Rule, as all monastic societies must. But in 1307? I have no idea what they believed. The Chronicles from that time are cryptic. Like I said, only the highest officers within the Order could have spoken on that subject. Most Templars were illiterate. Even Jacques de Molay could not read or write. So only a few within the Order controlled what the many thought. Of course, the Great Devise existed then, so I assume seeing was believing."

"What is this Great Devise?"

"I wish I knew. That information has been lost. The Chronicles speak little of it. I assume it's evidence of what the Order believed."

"Is that why they search for it?" Stephanie asked.

"Until recently, they haven't really searched. There's been little information relating to its whereabouts. But the master told Geoffrey that he believed Dad was on the right track."

"Why does de Roquefort want it so bad?" Malone asked Mark.

"Finding the Great Devise, depending on what's there, could well fuel the reemergence of the Order onto the world scene. That knowledge could also fundamentally change Christendom. De Roquefort wants retribution for what happened to the Order. He wants the Catholic Church exposed as hypocritical, the Order's name cleared."

Malone was puzzled. "What do you mean?"

"One of the charges leveled against the Templars in 1307 was idol worshiping. Some sort of bearded head the Order supposedly venerated, none of which was ever proven. Yet even now Catholics pray to images routinely, the Shroud of Turin being one of those."

Malone recalled what one of the Gospels said about Christ's death--after they had taken him down they wrapped him in a sheet--symbolism so sacred that a later pope decreed that mass should always be said upon a linen tablecloth. The Shroud of Turin, which Mark mentioned, was a cloth of herringbone weave on which was displayed a man--six feet tall, sharp nose, shoulder-length hair parted down the center, full beard, with crucifixion wounds to his hands, feet, and scalp, and scourge marks ravaging his back.

"The image on the shroud," Mark said, "is not of Christ. It's Jacques de Molay. He was arrested in October 1307 and in January 1308 he was nailed to a door in the Paris Temple in a manner similar to that of Christ. They were mocking him for his lack of belief in Jesus as Savior. France's grand inquisitor, Guillaume Imbert, orchestrated that torture. Afterward, de Molay was wrapped in a linen shroud the Order kept in the Paris Temple for use during induction ceremonies. We now know lactic acid and blood from de Molay's traumatized body mixed with the frankincense in the cloth and etched the image. There's even a modern equivalent. In 1981 a cancer patient in England left a similar trace of his limbs on bedsheets."

Malone recalled the late 1980s when the Church finally broke with tradition and allowed microscopic examination and carbon dating on the Shroud of Turin. The results indicated that there were no outlines or brushstrokes. The coloration lay upon the linen. Dating showed that the cloth came not from the first century, but from the late thirteenth to the mid-fourteenth century. But many contested those findings, saying the sample had been tainted, or was from a later repair to the original cloth.

"The image on the shroud fits de Molay physically," Mark said. "There are descriptions of him in the Chronicles. By the time he was tortured his hair had grown long, his beard was unkempt. The cloth that wrapped de Molay's body was removed from the Paris Temple by one of Geoffrey de Charney's relatives. De Charney burned at the stake in 1314 with de Molay. The family kept the cloth as a relic and later noticed that an image had settled upon it. The shroud initially appeared on a religious medallion that dated to 1338 and was first displayed in 1357. When it was shown, people immediately associated the image with Christ, and the de Charney family did nothing to dissuade that belief. That went on until the late sixteenth century when the Church took possession of the shroud, declaring it acheropita--not made by human hand--deeming it a holy relic. De Roquefort wants to take the shroud back. It's the Order's, not the Church's."

Thorvaldsen shook his head. "That's foolishness."

"It's how he thinks."

Malone noticed the annoyed look on Stephanie's face. "The Bible lesson was fascinating, Henrik. But I'm still waiting for the truth about what's happening here."

The Dane smiled. "You're such a joy."

"Chalk it up to my bubbly personality." She displayed her phone. "Let me make myself real clear. If I don't get some answers in the next few minutes, I'm calling Atlanta. I've had my fill of Raymond de Roquefort, so we're going public with this little treasure hunt and ending this nonsense."