The Templar Legacy (Page 43)



"You can't do that," Mark said to his mother. "The last thing we need is for the government to be involved."

"Why not?" Stephanie asked. "That abbey should be raided. Whatever they're doing is certainly not religious."

"On the contrary," Geoffrey said in a tremulous voice. "Great piety exists there. The brothers are devoted to the Lord. Their lives are consumed with His worship."

"And in between you learn about explosives, hand-to-hand combat, and how to shoot a weapon like a marksman. A bit of a contradiction, wouldn't you say?"

"Not at all," Thorvaldsen declared. "The original Templars were devoted to God and were a formidable fighting force."

Stephanie was clearly not impressed. "This is not the thirteenth century. De Roquefort has both an agenda and the might to press that agenda onto others. Today we call him a terrorist."

"You haven't changed a bit," Mark spat out.

"No, I haven't. I still believe that covert organizations with money, weapons, and chips on their shoulders are problems. My job is to deal with them."

"This doesn't concern you."

"Then why did your master involve me?"

Good question, Malone thought.

"You didn't understand when Dad was alive, and you don't now."

"Then why don't you clear up my confusion?"

"Mr. Malone," Cassiopeia said in pleasant tone. "How would you like to see the castle restoration project?"

Apparently their hostess wanted to speak with him alone. Which was fine--he had some questions for her, too. "I'd love that."

Cassiopeia pushed back her chair and stood from the table. "Then let me show you. That'll give everyone else here time to talk--which, clearly, needs to happen. Please, make yourselves at home. Mr. Malone and I will return in a short while."

He followed Cassiopeia outside into the bright afternoon. They strolled back down the shaded lane, toward the car park and the construction site.

"When finished," Cassiopeia told him, "a thirteenth-century castle will stand exactly as it did seven hundred years ago."

"Quite an endeavor."

"I thrive on grand endeavors."

They entered the construction site through a broad wooden gate and strolled into what appeared to be a barn with sandstone walls that housed a modern reception center. Beyond loomed the smell of dust, horses, and debris, where a hundred or so people milled about.

"The entire foundation for the perimeter has been laid and the west curtain wall is coming along," Cassiopeia said, pointing. "We're about to start the corner towers and central buildings. But it takes time. We have to fashion the bricks, stone, wood, and mortar precisely as was done seven hundred years ago, using the same methods and tools, even wearing the same clothes."

"Do they eat the same food?"

She smiled. "We do make some modern accommodation."

She led him through the construction area and up the slope of a steep hill to a modest promontory, where everything could be clearly seen.

"I come here often. One hundred and twenty men and women are employed down there full time."

"Quite a payroll."

"A small price to pay for history to be seen."

"Your nickname, Ingenieur. Is that what they call you? Engineer?"

"The staff gave me that name. I'm trained in medieval building techniques. I've designed this entire project."

"You know, on the one hand, you're an arrogant bitch. On the other, you can be rather interesting."

"I realize my comment at lunch, about what happened with Henrik's son, was inappropriate. Why didn't you strike back?"

"For what? You didn't know what the hell you were talking about."

"I'll try not to make any more judgments."

He chuckled. "I doubt that, and I'm not that sensitive. I long ago developed a lizard skin. You have to in order to survive in this business."

"But you're retired."

"You never really quit. You just stay out of the line of fire more often than not."

"So you're helping Stephanie Nelle simply as a friend?"

"Shocking, isn't it?"

"Not at all. In fact, it's entirely consistent with your personality."

Now he was curious. "How do you know about my personality?"

"Once Henrik asked me to be involved, I learned a great deal about you. I have friends in your former profession. They all spoke highly of you."

"Glad to know folks remember."

"Do you know much about me?" she asked.

"Just a thumbnail sketch."

"I have many peculiarities."

"Then you and Henrik should get along well."

She smiled. "I see you know him well."

"How long have you known him?"

"Since childhood. He knew my parents. Many years ago, he told me of Lars Nelle. What Lars was working on fascinated me. So I became Lars's guardian angel, though he thought of me as the devil. Unfortunately, I couldn't help him on the last day of his life."

"Were you there?"

She shook her head. "He'd traveled south to the mountains. I was here when Henrik called and told me the body had been found."

"Did he kill himself?"

"Lars was a sad man, that was plain. He was also frustrated. All those amateurs who'd seized on his work and twisted it beyond recognition. The puzzle he tried to solve has remained a mystery a long time. So, yes, it's possible."

"What were you protecting him from?"

"Many tried to encroach on his research. Most of them were ambitious treasure hunters, some opportunists, but eventually Raymond de Roquefort's men appeared. Luckily, I was always able to conceal my presence from them."

"De Roquefort is now master."

She crinkled her brow. "Which explains his renewed search efforts. He now commands all the Templar resources."

She apparently knew nothing about Mark Nelle and where he'd been living the past five years, so he told her, then said, "Mark lost to de Roquefort in the selection of a new master."

"So this is personal between them?"

"That's certainly part of it." But not all, he thought, as he stared down and watched a horse-drawn cart work its way across the dry earth toward one of the partial walls.

"The work being done today is for the tourists," she said, noticing his interest. "Part of the show. We'll return to serious building tomorrow."

"The sign out front said it'll take thirty years to finish."


She was right. She did possess many peculiarities.

"I intentionally left Lars's notebook for de Roquefort to find in Avignon."

That revelation shocked him. "Why?"

"Henrik wanted to talk to the Nelles privately. It's why we're here. He also said that you're a man of honor. I trust precious few people in this world, but Henrik is one I do. So I'm going to take him at his word and tell you some things no one else knows."

MARK LISTENED AS HENRIK THORVALDSEN EXPLAINED. HIS mother appeared interested, too, but Geoffrey simply stared at the table, hardly blinking, seemingly in a trance.

"It's time you fully understand what Lars believed," Henrik said to Stephanie. "Contrary to what you may have thought, he was not some crackpot chasing after treasure. A serious purpose lay behind his inquiries."

"I'll ignore your insult, since I want to hear what you have to say."

A look of irritation crept into Thorvaldsen's eyes. "Lars's theory was simple, though it really was not his. Ernst Scoville formulated most of it, which involved a novel look at the Gospels of the New Testament, especially with how they dealt with the resurrection. Cassiopeia hinted at some of this earlier.

"Let's start with Mark's. His was the first Gospel, written around AD 70, perhaps the only Gospel the early Christians possessed after Christ died. It contains six hundred sixty-five verses, yet only eight are devoted to the resurrection. This most remarkable of events only rated a brief mention. Why? The answer is simple. When Mark's Gospel was written, the story of the resurrection had yet to develop, and the Gospel ends without mention of the fact that the disciples believed Jesus had been raised from the dead. Instead, it tells us that the disciples fled. Only women appear in Mark's version of what happened, and they ignore a command to tell the disciples to go to Galilee so the risen Christ could meet them there. Rather, the women, too, are confused and flee, telling no one what they saw. There are no angels, only a young man dressed in white who calmly announces that He has risen. No guards, no burial clothes, and no risen Lord."

Mark knew everything Thorvaldsen had just said was true. He'd studied that Gospel in great detail.

"Matthew's testimony came a decade later. The Romans had by then sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. Many Jews had fled into the Greek-speaking world. The Orthodox Jews who stayed in the Holy Land viewed the new Jewish Christians as a problem--as much of one as the Romans were. Hostility existed between the Orthodox Jews and the emerging Jewish Christians. Matthew's Gospel was probably written by one of those unknown Jewish Christian scribes. Mark's Gospel had left many unanswered questions, so Matthew changed the story to suit his troubled time.

"Now the messenger who announces the resurrection becomes an angel. He descends in an earthquake, with a face like lightning. Guards are struck down. The stone has been removed from the tomb, and an angel perches upon it. The women are still gripped with fear, but it is rapidly replaced with joy. Contrary to the women in Mark's account, the women here rush out to tell the disciples what's happened and actually confront the risen Christ. Here, for the first time, the risen Lord is actually described. And what did the women do?"

"They took hold of His feet and worshiped Him," Mark softly said. "Later, Jesus appeared to His disciples and proclaimed that 'all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.' He tells them he'll always be with them."

"What a change," Thorvaldsen said. "The Jewish Messiah named Jesus has now become Christ to the world. In Matthew, everything is more vivid. Miraculous, too. Then comes Luke, sometime around AD 90. By then the Jewish Christians had moved further away from Judaism, so Luke radically modified the resurrection story to accommodate this change. The women are at the tomb again, but this time they find it empty and go tell the disciples. Peter returns and sees only the discarded burial clothes. Then Luke tells a story that appears nowhere else in the Bible. It involves Jesus traveling in disguise, encountering certain disciples, sharing a meal, then, when recognized, vanishing. There is also a later encounter with all of the disciples where they doubt His flesh, so He eats with them, then vanishes. And only in Luke do we find the story of Jesus's ascension into heaven. What's happened? A sense of rapture has now been grafted onto the risen Christ."

Mark had read similar Scripture analyses in the Templar archives. Learned brothers had for centuries studied the Word, noting errors, evaluating contradictions, and hypothesizing on the many conflicts in names, dates, places, and events.

"Then there's John," Thorvaldsen said. "The Gospel written the furthest away from Jesus's life, around AD 100. There are so many changes in this Gospel, it's almost as if John talks of a totally different Christ. No Bethlehem birth--Nazareth is Jesus's birthplace here. The other three talk of a three-year ministry. John says only one. The Last Supper in John occurred on the day before the Passover--the crucifixion on the day the Passover lamb was slaughtered. This is different from the other Gospels. John also moved the cleansing of the Temple from the day after Palm Sunday to a time early in Christ's ministry.

"In John, Mary Magdalene alone goes to the tomb and finds it empty. She never even considers a resurrection, but instead thinks the body has been stolen. Only when she returns with Peter and the other disciple does she see two angels. Then the angels are transformed into Jesus Himself.

"Look how this one detail, about who was in the tomb, changed. Mark's young man dressed in white became Matthew's dazzling angel, which Luke expanded to two angels, which John modified to two angels who become Christ. And was the risen Lord seen in the garden on the first day of the week, as Christians are always told? Mark and Luke said no. Matthew, yes. John said not at first, but Mary Magdalene did see Him later. What happened is clear. Over time, the resurrection was made more and more miraculous to accommodate a changing world."

"I assume," Stephanie said, "you don't adhere to the principle of biblical inerrancy?"

"There's nothing whatsoever literal within the Bible. It's a tale riddled with inconsistencies, and the only way they can be explained is through the use of faith. That may have worked a thousand years ago, or even five hundred years ago, but that explanation is no longer acceptable. The human mind today questions. Your husband questioned."

"So what was it Lars meant to do?"

"The impossible," Mark muttered.

His mother looked at him with strangely understanding eyes. "But that never stopped him." The voice was low and melodious, as if she'd just realized a truth that had long lain hidden. "If nothing else, he was a wonderful dreamer."

"But his dreams had a basis," Mark said. "The Templars once knew what Dad wanted to know. Even today, they read and study Scripture that's not a part of the New Testament. The Gospel of Philip, the Letter of Barnabas, the Acts of Peter, the Epistle of the Apostles, the Secret Book of John, the Gospel of Mary, the Didache. And the Gospel of Thomas, which is to them perhaps the closest we have to what Jesus may have actually said, since it has not been subjected to countless translations. Many of these so-called heretical texts are eye opening. And that was what made the Templars special. The true source of their power. Not wealth or might, but knowledge."

MALONE STOOD UNDER THE SHADE OF TALL POPLARS THAT DOTTED the promontory. A cool breeze eased past and dulled the sun's rays, reminding him of a fall afternoon at the beach. He was waiting for Cassiopeia to tell him what nobody else knew. "Why did you allow de Roquefort to have Lars Nelle's notebook?"

"Because it's useless." A crinkle of amusement slipped into her dark eyes.

"I thought it contained Lars's private thoughts. Information he never published. The key to everything."

"Some of that is true, but it's not the key to anything. Lars created it just for the Templars."

"Would Claridon have known that?"

"Probably not. Lars was a secretive man. He told no one everything. He said once that only the paranoid survived in his line of work."

"How do you know this?"

"Henrik was aware. Lars never spoke of the details, but he told Henrik of his encounters with the Templars. On occasion, he actually believed he was speaking to the Order's master. They talked several times, but eventually de Roquefort entered the picture. And he was altogether different. More aggressive, less tolerant. So Lars created the notebook for de Roquefort to focus on--not unlike the misdirection Sauniere himself used."

"Would the Templar master have known this? When Mark was taken to the abbey, he had the notebook with him. The master kept it hidden until a month ago, when he sent it to Stephanie."

"Hard to say. But if he sent the notebook to Stephanie, it's possible the master calculated that de Roquefort would again chase after it. He apparently wanted Stephanie involved, so what better way than to bait her with something irresistible?"

Smart, he had to admit. And it worked.

"The master surely felt Stephanie would use the considerable resources at her disposal to aid the quest," she said.

"He didn't know Stephanie. Too stubborn. She'd try it on her own first."

"But you were there to help."

"Lucky me."

"Oh, it's not that bad. We never would have met otherwise."

"Like I said, lucky me."

"I'll take that as a compliment. Otherwise my feelings might be hurt."

"I doubt you bruise so easily."

"You handled yourself well in Copenhagen," she said. "Then again in Roskilde."

"You were in the cathedral?"

"For a while, but I left when the shooting started. It would have been impossible for me to help without revealing my presence, and Henrik wanted that kept secret."

"And what if I had been unable to stop those men inside?"

"Oh, come now. You?" She threw him a smile. "Tell me something. How shocked were you when the brother leaped from the Round Tower?"

"Not something you see every day."

"He fulfilled his oath. Trapped, he chose death rather than risk the Order's exposure."

"I assume you were there because of my mention to Henrik that Stephanie was coming for a visit."

"Partly. When I heard of Ernst Scoville's sudden demise, I learned from some of the older men in Rennes that he'd spoken with Stephanie and that she was coming to France. They're all Rennes enthusiasts, spending their days playing chess and fantasizing about Sauniere. Each one of them lives in a conspiratorialist dream. Scoville bragged that he meant to get Lars's notebook. He didn't care for Stephanie, though he'd led her to believe otherwise. Obviously he, too, was unaware that the journal was by and large meaningless. His death aroused my suspicions, so I contacted Henrik and learned of Stephanie's impending Danish visit. We decided that I should go to Denmark."

"And Avignon?"

"I had a source at the asylum. No one believed Claridon was crazy. Deceitful, untrustworthy, an opportunist--certainly. But not insane. So I watched until you returned to claim Claridon. Henrik and I knew there was something in the palace archives, just not what. As Henrik said at lunch, Mark never met Henrik. Mark was much tougher to deal with than his father. He only occasionally searched. Something, perhaps, to keep his father's memory alive. Whatever he may have found, he kept totally to himself. He and Claridon connected for a while, but it was a loose association. Then, when Mark disappeared in the avalanche and Claridon retreated to the asylum, Henrik and I gave up."

"Until now."

"The quest is back on, and this time there may well be somewhere to go."

He waited for her to explain.

"We have the book with the gravestone and we also have Reading the Rules of the Caridad. Together, we might actually be able to determine what Sauniere found, since we're the first to have so many pieces of the puzzle."

"And what do we do if we find anything?"

"As a Muslim? I'd like to tell the world. As a realist? I don't know. The historical arrogance of Christianity is nauseating. To it, every other religion is an imitation. Amazing, really. All of Western history is shaped by its narrow precepts. Art, architecture, music, writing--even society itself became Christianity's servants. That simple movement ultimately formed the mold from which Western civilization was crafted, and it could all be predicated on a lie. Wouldn't you like to know?"

"I'm not a religious person."

Her thin lips creased into another smile. "But you're a curious man. Henrik speaks of your courage and intellect in reverent terms. A bibliophile, with an eidetic memory. Quite a combination."

"And I can cook, too."

She chuckled. "You don't fool me. Finding the Great Devise would mean something to you."

"Let's just say that it would be a most unusual find."

"Fair enough. We'll leave it at that. But if we're successful, I look forward to seeing your reaction."

"You're that confident there's something to find?"

She swept her arms toward the distant outline of the Pyrenees. "It's out there, no question. Sauniere found it. We can, too."

STEPHANIE AGAIN CONSIDERED WHAT THORVALDSEN HAD SAID about the New Testament, and made clear, "The Bible is not a literal document."

Thorvaldsen shook his head. "A great many Christian faiths would take issue with that statement. For them, the Bible is the Word of God."

She looked at Mark. "Did your father believe the Bible was not the Word of God?"

"We debated the point many times. I was, at first, a believer, and I'd argue with him. But I came to think like he did. It's a book of stories. Glorious stories, designed to point people toward a good life. There's even greatness in those stories--if one practices their moral. I don't think it's necessary that it's the Word of God. It's enough that the words are a timeless truth."

"Elevating Christ to deity status was simply a way of elevating the importance of the message," Thorvaldsen said. "After organized religion took over in the third and fourth centuries, so much was added to the tale that it's impossible any longer to know its core. Lars wanted to change all that. He wanted to find what the Templars once possessed. When he first learned of Rennes-le-Chateau years ago, he immediately believed the Templar's Great Devise was what Sauniere had located. So he devoted his life to solving the Rennes puzzle."

Stephanie was still not convinced. "What makes you think the Templars secreted anything away? Weren't they arrested quickly? How was there time to hide anything?"

"They were prepared," Mark said. "The Chronicles make that clear. What Philip IV did wasn't without precedent. A hundred years earlier there was an incident with Frederick II, the king of Germany and Sicily. In 1228 he arrived in the Holy Land as an excommunicate, which meant he could not command a crusade. The Templars and Hospitallers stayed loyal to the pope and refused to follow him. Only his German Teutonic knights stood by his side. Ultimately, he negotiated a peace treaty with the Saracens that created a divided Jerusalem. The Temple Mount, which was where the Templars were headquartered, was given by that treaty to the Muslims. So you can imagine what the Templars thought of him. He was as amoral as Nero and universally hated. He even tried to kidnap the Order's master. Finally he left the Holy Land in 1229, and as he made his way to the port at Acre, the locals threw excrement on him. He hated the Templars for their disloyalty, and when he returned to Sicily, he seized Templar property and made arrests. All of which was recorded in the Chronicles."

"So the Order was ready?" Thorvaldsen asked.

"The Order had already seen, firsthand, what a hostile ruler could do to it. Philip IV was similar. As a young man he'd applied for Templar membership and had been refused, so he harbored a lifelong resentment toward the brotherhood. Early in his reign, the Templars actually saved Philip when he tried to devalue the French currency and the people revolted. He fled to the Paris Temple for refuge. Afterward, he felt beholden to the Templars. And monarchs never want to owe anyone. So, yes, by October 1307 the Order was ready. Unfortunately, nothing is recorded that tells us the details of what was done." Mark's gaze bored into Stephanie. "Dad gave his life to try to solve that mystery."

"He did love looking, didn't he?" Thorvaldsen said.

Though answering the Dane, Mark continued to face her. "It was one of the few things that actually brought him joy. He wanted to please his wife and himself and, unfortunately, he could do neither. So he opted out. Decided to leave us all."

"I never wanted to believe he killed himself," she said to her son.

"But we'll never know, will we?"

"Perhaps you may," Geoffrey said. And for the first time the young man lifted his gaze from the table. "The master said you might learn the truth of his death."

"What do you know?" she asked.

"I know only what the master told me."

"What did he tell you about my father?" Anger gripped Mark's face. Stephanie could never recall seeing him vent that emotion on anyone but her.

"That will have to be learned, by you. I don't know." The voice was strange, hollow, and conciliatory. "The master told me to be tolerant of your emotion. He made clear you're my senior, and I should offer you nothing but respect."

"But you seem to be the only one with answers," Stephanie said.

"No, madame. I know but markers. The answers, the master said, must come from all of you."


 MALONE FOLLOWED CASSIOPEIA INTO A LOFTY CHAMBER WITH A raftered ceiling and paneled walls hung with tapestries that depicted cuirasses, swords, lances, casques, and shields. A black marble fireplace dominated the long room, which was lit by a glittering chandelier. The others joined them from the dining room and he noticed serious expressions on all of their faces. A mahogany table sat beneath a set of mullioned windows, across which were spread books, papers, and photographs.

"Time we see if there are any conclusions we can reach," Cassiopeia said. "On the table is everything I have on this subject."

Malone told the others about Lars's notebook and how some of the information contained within it was false.

"Does that include what he said about himself?" Stephanie asked. "This young man here--" She pointed at Geoffrey. "--sent me pages from the journal--pages his master cut out. They talked about me."

"Only you know if what he said was true or more misdirection," Cassiopeia said.

"She's right," Thorvaldsen said. "The notebook is, by and large, not genuine. Lars created it as Templar bait."

"Another point you conveniently failed to mention back in Copenhagen." Stephanie's tone signaled she was once again annoyed.

Thorvaldsen was undaunted. "The important thing was that de Roquefort thought the journal genuine."

Stephanie's back straightened. "You son of a bitch, we could have been killed trying to get it back."

"But you weren't. Cassiopeia kept an eye on you both."

"And that makes what you did right?"

"Stephanie, you've never withheld information from one of your agents?" Thorvaldsen asked.

She held her tongue.

"He's right," Malone said.

She whirled and faced him.

"How many times did you tell me only part of the story?" "And how many times did I complain later that it could have gotten me killed? And what did you say? Get used to it. Same here, Stephanie. I don't like it any better than you do, but I got used to it."

"Why don't we stop arguing and see if we can come to some consensus as to what Sauniere may have found," Cassiopeia said.

"And where would you suggest we start?" Mark asked.

"I'd say Marie d'Hautpoul de Blanchefort's gravestone would be an excellent spot, since we have Stublein's book that Henrik purchased at the auction." She motioned to the table. "Opened to the drawing."

They all stepped close and gazed at the sketch.

"Claridon explained about this in Avignon," Malone said, and he told them about the wrong date of death--1681 as opposed to 1781--the Roman numerals--MDCOLXXXI--containing a zero, and the remaining set of Roman numerals--LIXLIXL--etched into the lower right corner.

Mark grabbed a pencil off the table and wrote 1681 and 59, 59, 50 on a pad. "That's the conversion of those numbers. I'm ignoring the zero in the 1681. Claridon's right, no zero in Roman numerals."

Malone pointed at the Greek letters on the left stone. "Claridon said they were Latin words written in the Greek alphabet. He converted the lettering and came up with Et in arcadia ego. And in Arcadia I. He thought it might be an anagram, since the phrase makes little sense."

Mark studied the words with intensity, then asked Geoffrey for the rucksack, from which he removed a tightly folded towel. He gently unwrapped the bundle and revealed a small codex. Its leafs were folded, then sewn together and bound--vellum, if Malone wasn't mistaken. He'd never seen one he could actually touch.

"This came from the Templar archives. I found it a few years ago, right after I became seneschal. It was written in 1542 by one of the abbey's scribes. It's an excellent reproduction of a fourteenth-century manuscript and recounts how the Templars re-formed after the Purge. It also deals with the time from December 1306 until May 1307, when Jacques de Molay was in France and little is known of his whereabouts."

Mark gently opened the ancient volume and carefully paged through until he found what he was looking for. Malone saw the Latin script was a series of loops and fioriture, the letters joined together from the pen not being lifted from the page.

"Listen to this."

    Our master, the most reverend and devoted Jacques de Molay, received the pope's envoy on 6 June 1306 with the pomp and courtesy reserved for those of high rank. The message stated that His Holiness Pope Clement V hath summoned Master de Molay to France. Our master intended to comply with that order, making all preparations, but prior to leaving the island of Cyprus, where the Order hath established its headquarters, our master learned that the leader of the Hospitallers had also been summoned, but hath refused the command, citing the need to remain with his Order in time of conflict. This aroused great suspicion in our master and he consulted with his officers. His Holiness had likewise instructed our master to travel unrecognized and with a small retinue. This raised more questions since why would His Holiness care how our master moved through the lands. Then a curious document was brought to our master titled De Recuperatione Terrae Sanctae. Concerning the Recovery of the Holy Land. The manuscript was written by one of Philip IV's lawyers and it outlined a grand new crusade to be headed by a Warrior King designed to retake the Holy Land from the infidels. This proposal was a direct affront to the plans of our Order and caused our master to question his summons to the King's court. Our master made it known that he greatly distrusted the French monarch, though it would be both foolish and inappropriate for him to voice that mistrust beyond the walls of our Temple. In a mood of caution, being not a careless man and remembering the treachery from long ago of Frederick II, our master laid plans that our wealth and knowledge must be safeguarded. He prayed that he might be in error but saw no reason to be unprepared. Brother Gilbert de Blanchefort was summoned and ordered to take away the treasure of the Temple in advance. Our master then told de Blanchefort, "We of the Order's leadership could be at risk. So none of us are to know what you know and you must assure that what you know is passed to others in an appropriate manner." Brother de Blanchefort, being a learned man, set about to accomplish his mission and quietly secreted all that the Order had acquired. Four brothers were his allies and they used four words, one for each of them, as their signal. ET IN ARCADIA EGO. But the letters are but a jumble for the true message. A rearrangement tells precisely what their task entailed. I TEGO ARCANA DEI.

"I conceal the secrets of God," Mark said, translating the last line. "Anagrams were common in the fourteenth century, too."

"So de Molay was ready?" Malone asked.

Mark nodded. "He came to France with sixty knights, a hundred fifty thousand gold florins, and twelve pack horses hauling unminted silver. He knew there was going to be trouble. That money was to be used to buy his way out. But there's something contained within this treatise that is little known. The commander of the Templar contingent in the Languedoc was Seigneur de Goth. Pope Clement V, the man who summoned de Molay, was named Bertrand de Goth. The pope's mother was Ida de Blanchefort, who was related to Gilbert de Blanchefort. So de Molay possessed good inside information."

"Always helps," Malone said.

"De Molay also knew something on Clement V. Prior to his election as pope, Clement met with Philip IV. The king had the power to deliver the papacy to whomever he wanted. Before he gave it to Clement, he imposed six conditions. Most had to do with Philip getting to do whatever he wanted, but the sixth concerned the Templars. Philip wanted the Order dissolved, and Clement agreed."

"Interesting stuff," Stephanie said, "but what seems more important at the moment is what the abbe Bigou knew. He's the man who actually commissioned Marie's gravestone. Would he have known of a connection between the de Blanchefort family secret and the Templars?"

"Without a doubt," Thorvaldsen said. "Bigou was told the family secret by Marie d'Hautpoul de Blanchefort herself. Her husband was a direct descendant of Gilbert de Blanchefort. Once the Order was suppressed, and Templars started burning at the stake, Gilbert de Blanchefort would have told no one the location of the Great Devise. So that family secret has to be Templar-related. What else could it be?"

Mark nodded. "The Chronicles speak of carts topped with hay moving through the French countryside, each headed south toward the Pyrenees, escorted by armed men disguised as peasants. All but three made the journey safely. Unfortunately, there's no mention of their final destination. Only one clue in all the Chronicles. Where is it best to hide a pebble?"

"In the middle of a rock pile," Malone said.

"That's what the master said, too," Mark said. "To the fourteenth-century mind, the most obvious location would be the safest."

Malone gazed again at the gravestone drawing. "So Bigou had this gravestone carved that, in code, says that he conceals the secrets of God, and he went to the trouble of publicly placing it. What was the point? What are we missing?"

Mark reached into the rucksack and extracted another volume. "This is a report by the Order's marshal written in 1897. The man was investigating Sauniere and came across another priest, the abbe Gelis, in a nearby village, who found a cryptogram in his church."

"As Sauniere did," Stephanie said.

"That's right. Gelis deciphered the cryptogram and wanted the bishop to know what he learned. The marshal posed as the bishop's representative and copied the puzzle, but he kept the solution to himself."

Mark showed them the cryptogram and Malone studied the lines of letters and symbols. "Some sort of numeric key unscrambles it?"

Mark nodded. "It's impossible to break without the key. There are billions of possible combinations."

"There was one of these in your father's journal, too," he said.

"I know. Dad found it in Noel Corbu's unpublished manuscript."

"Claridon told us about that."

"Which means de Roquefort has it," Stephanie said. "But is it part of the fiction of Lars's journal?"

"Anything Corbu touched has to be suspect," Thorvaldsen made clear. "He embellished Sauniere's story to promote his damn hotel."

"But the manuscript he wrote," Mark said. "Dad always believed it contained truth. Corbu was close with Sauniere's mistress up until she died in 1953. Many believed she told him things. That's why Corbu never published the manuscript. It contradicted his fictionalized version of the story."

"But surely the cryptogram in the journal is false?" Thorvaldsen said. "That would have been the very thing de Roquefort would have wanted from the journal."

"We can only hope," Malone said, as he noticed an image of Reading the Rules of the Caridad on the table. He lifted the letter-sized reproduction and studied the writing beneath the little man, in a monk's robe, perched on a stool with a finger to his lips, signaling quiet.


DE 1681

Something was wrong, and he instantly compared the image with the lithograph.

The dates were different.

"I spent this morning learning about that painting," Cassiopeia said. "I found that image on the Internet. The painting was destroyed by fire in the late 1950s, but prior to that the canvas had been cleaned and readied for display. During the restoration process it was discovered that 1687 was actually 1681. But of course, the lithograph was drawn at a time when the date was obscured."

Stephanie shook her head. "This is a puzzle with no answer. Everything changes by the minute."

"You're doing precisely what the master wanted," Geoffrey said.

They all looked at him.

"He said that once you combined, all would be revealed."

Malone was confused. "But your master specifically warned us to Beware the engineer."

Geoffrey motioned to Cassiopeia. "Perhaps you should beware of her."

"What does that mean?" Thorvaldsen asked.

"Her race fought the Templars for two centuries."

"Actually, the Muslims trounced the brothers and sent them packing from the Holy Land," Cassiopeia declared. "And Spanish Muslims kept the Order in check here in the Languedoc when the Templars tried to expand their sphere south, beyond the Pyrenees. So your master was right. Beware the engineer."

"What would you do if you found the Great Devise?" Geoffrey asked her.

"Depends on what there is to find."

"Why does that matter? The Devise is not yours, regardless."

"You're quite forward for a mere brother of the Order."

"Much is at stake here, the least of which is your ambition to prove Christianity a lie."

"I don't recall saying that was my ambition."

"The master knew."

Cassiopeia's face screwed tight--the first time Malone had seen agitation in her expression. "Your master knew nothing of my motives."

"And by keeping them hidden," Geoffrey said, "you do nothing but confirm his suspicion."

Cassiopeia faced Henrik. "This young man could be a problem."

"He was sent by the master," Thorvaldsen said. "We shouldn't question."

"He's trouble," Cassiopeia declared.

"Maybe so," Mark said. "But he's part of this, so get used to him."

She stayed calm and unruffled. "Do you trust him?"

"Doesn't matter," Mark said. "Henrik's right. The master trusted him and that's what matters. Even if the good brother can be irritating."

Cassiopeia did not push the point, but on her brow was written the shadow of mutiny. And Malone did not necessarily disagree with her impulse.

He turned his attention back to the table and stared at the color images taken at the Church of Mary Magdalene. He noticed the garden with the statue of the Virgin and the words MISSION 1891 and PENITENCE, PENITENCE carved into the face of the upside-down Visigoth pillar. He shuffled through close-up shots of the stations of the cross, pausing for a moment on station 10, where a Roman soldier was gambling for Christ's cloak, the numbers three, four, and five visible on the dice faces. Then he paused on station 14, which showed Christ's body being carried under cover of darkness by two men.

He remembered what Mark had said in the church, and he couldn't help wondering. Was their route into the tomb or out?

He shook his head.

What in the world was happening?