The Templar Legacy (Page 6)
STEPHANIE ENTERED THE DOMKIRKE. THE MAN AT THE AUCTION had said the building was easy to find and he'd been right. The monstrous brick edifice, far too big for the town around it, dominated the evening sky.
Inside the grandiose building she found extensions, chapels, and porches, all topped by a high vaulted ceiling and towering stained-glass windows that lent the ancient walls a celestial air. She could tell the cathedral was no longer Catholic--Lutheran from the decor, if she was not mistaken--with architecture that cast a distinctively French air.
She was angry that she'd lost the book. She'd thought it would sell for no more than three hundred kroner, fifty dollars or so. Instead, some anonymous buyer paid more than eight thousand dollars for an innocuous account of southern France written over a hundred years ago.
Again, somebody knew her business.
Maybe it was the person waiting for her? The two men who'd approached her after the bidding had said all would be explained if she would simply walk to the cathedral and find Christian IV's chapel. She'd thought the trip foolish, but what choice did she have? She had a limited amount of time in which to do a great deal.
She followed the directions provided to her and circled the vestibule. A service was being held in the nave to her right, before the main altar. About fifty people knelt in the pews. Music from a pipe organ banged through the interior with a metallic vibration. She found Christian IV's chapel and entered through an elaborate iron grille.
Waiting for her was a short man with wispy, iron-gray hair that lay flat upon his head like a cap. He had a rugged, clean-shaven face and wore light-colored cotton trousers beneath an open collar shirt. A leather jacket covered his thick chest, and as she drew closer, she noticed that his dark eyes cast a look she immediately thought cold and suspicious. Perhaps he sensed her apprehension because his expression softened and he threw her a disarming grin.
"Ms. Nelle, so good to meet you."
"How do you know who I am?"
"I was well acquainted with your husband's work. He was a great scholar on several subjects that interest me."
"Which ones? My husband dealt in many subjects."
"Rennes-le-Chateau is my main interest. His work on the so-called great secret of that town and the land surrounding it."
"Are you the person who just outbid me?"
He held up his hands in mock surrender. "Not I, which is why I asked to speak with you. I had a representative bidding but--like you, I'm sure--I was shocked at the final price."
Needing a moment to think, she wandered around the royal sepulcher. Monstrous wall-sized paintings, encased with elaborate trompe l'oeil, sheathed the dazzling marble walls. Five embellished coffins filled the center beneath an enormous arched ceiling.
The man motioned to the coffins. "Christian IV is regarded as Denmark's greatest monarch. As with Henry VIII in England, Francis II in France, and Peter the Great of Russia, he fundamentally changed this country. His mark remains everywhere."
"Let me show you something."
He stepped toward the metal grating at the chapel's entrance. She followed.
"Legend says that the devil himself designed these ironworks. The craftsmanship is extraordinary. It contains the king and queen's monograms and a multitude of fabulous creatures. But look closely at the bottom."
She saw words engraved into the decorative metal.
"It reads," he said, "Caspar Fincke bin ich genannt, dieser Arbeit binn ich bekannt. Caspar Fincke is my name, to this work I owe my fame."
She faced him. "Your point?"
"Atop the Round Tower in Copenhagen, around its edge, is another iron grating. Fincke designed that, too. He fashioned it low so the eye could see the city rooftops, but it also makes for an easy leap."
She got the message. "That man who jumped today worked for you?"
"Why did he die?"
"Soldiers of Christ securely fight the battles of the Lord, fearing no sin from the slaughter of the enemy, nor danger from their own death."
"He killed himself."
"When death is to be given, or received, it has naught of a crime in it but much glory."
"You don't know how to answer a question."
He smiled. "I was merely quoting a great theologian, who wrote those words eight hundred years ago. St. Bernard of Clairvaux."
"Who are you?"
"Why not call me Bernard."
"What do you want?"
"Two things. First, the book we both lost in the bidding. But I recognize you cannot provide that. The second, you do have. It was sent to you a month ago."
She kept her face stoic. This was indeed the man who knew her business. "And what is that?"
"Ah, a test. A way for you to judge my credibility. All right. The package sent to you contained a journal that once belonged to your husband--a personal notebook he kept until his untimely death. Did I pass?"
She said nothing.
"I want that journal."
"Why is it so important?"
"Many called your husband odd. Different. New age. The academic community scoffed at him, and the press made fun of him. But I called him brilliant. He could see things others never noticed. Look what he accomplished. He originated the entire modern-day attraction with Rennes-le-Chateau. His book was the first to realert the world to the locale's wonders. Sold five million copies worldwide. Quite an accomplishment."
"My husband sold many books."
"Fourteen, if I'm not mistaken, but none was of the magnitude of his first, The Treasure at Rennes-le-Chateau. Thanks to him, there are now hundreds of volumes published on that subject."
"What makes you think I have my husband's journal?"
"We both know that I would have it now but for the interference of a man named Cotton Malone. I believe he once worked for you."
The time for pretense was over. "Who do you work for?"
"I doubt that."
"Why would you?"
"Years of practice."
He smiled again, which annoyed her. "The notebook, if you please."
"I don't have it. After today, I thought it needed safekeeping."
"Does Peter Hansen have it?"
She said nothing.
"No. I assume you would not admit to anything."
"I think this conversation is over." She turned for the open gate and hurried through it. To her right, back toward the main doors, she spied two more men with short hair--not the same ones from the auction house--but she instantly knew who gave them orders.
She glanced back at the man whose name was not Bernard.
"Like my associate today on the Round Tower, there is no place for you to go."
And she spun left and rushed deeper into the cathedral.