The Templar Legacy (Page 7)
MALONE ASSESSED THE SITUATION. HE WAS STANDING IN A PUBLIC place, adjacent to a crowded street. People were coming and going from the auction hall, while others were waiting for their cars to be brought by attendants from a nearby lot. Clearly his surveillance of Stephanie had not gone unnoticed, and he cursed himself for not being more alert. But he decided that, contrary to the threats made, the two men on either side of him would not risk exposure. He was being detained, not eliminated. Perhaps their task was to give whatever was happening in the cathedral with Stephanie time to unfold.
Which meant he needed to act.
He watched as more patrons spilled out from the auction hall. One, a gangly Dane, owned a bookshop in the Stroget, near Peter Hansen's store. He watched as a valet delivered the man's car.
"Vagn," Malone called out, stepping away from the gun to his back.
His friend heard his name and turned.
"Cotton, how are you?" the man answered in Danish.
Malone casually walked toward the car and looked back to see the short-haired man quickly conceal the weapon beneath his jacket. He'd caught the man off his guard, which only confirmed what he already thought. These guys were amateurs. He was ready to bet that they didn't speak Danish, either.
"Might I trouble you for a ride back to Copenhagen?" he asked.
"Certainly. We have room. Climb in."
He reached for the rear passenger door. "I appreciate it. My ride is going to hang around awhile and I need to get back home."
As he slammed the car door shut, he waved through the window and saw a confused look on the two men's faces as the car eased away.
"Nothing interest you today?" Vagn asked.
He turned his attention to the driver. "Not a thing."
"Me, either. We decided to leave and take an early dinner."
Malone glanced over at the woman next to him. Another man sat in the front. He did not know either, so he introduced himself. The car slowly made its way out of Roskilde's warren of tight streets toward the Copenhagen highway.
He spied the twin spires and copper roof of the cathedral. "Vagn, could you let me out? I need to hang around a little longer."
"I just remembered something I need to do."
STEPHANIE PARALLELED THE NAVE AND PLUNGED DEEPER INTO the cathedral. Past the massive pillars rising to her right, the church service was still in progress. Her low heels clicked off the flagstones, but only she could hear them, thanks to the ponderous organ. The path ahead rounded the main altar, and a series of half walls and memorials divided the ambulatory from the choir.
She glanced back to see the man calling himself Bernard sauntering forward, but the two other men were nowhere to be seen. She realized that she would soon be heading back toward the church's main entrance, only on the other side of the building. For the first time, she fully appreciated the risks her agents took. She'd never worked in the field--that was not part of her job--but this was not an official assignment. This was personal and she was officially on vacation. No one knew she'd traveled to Denmark--no one besides Cotton Malone. And considering her present predicament, that anonymity was becoming a problem.
She rounded the ambulatory.
Her pursuer stayed a discreet distance back, surely knowing that she had nowhere to go. She passed a set of stone stairs that dropped down into another side chapel and then saw, fifty feet ahead, the two other men appear in the rear vestibule, blocking her way out of the church. Behind her, Bernard continued his steady advance. To her left was another sepulcher, this one identified as the Chapel of Magi.
She darted inside.
Two marble tombs lay within the brilliantly decorated walls, both reminiscent of Roman temples. She retreated toward the farther. Then a wild unreasoning terror seized her as she realized the worst.
She was trapped.
MALONE JOGGED TO THE CATHEDRAL AND ENTERED THROUGH the main doors. To his right he spotted two men--stocky, short hair, plainly dressed--similar to the two he'd just evaded outside the auction. He decided not to take any chances and reached beneath his jacket for a Beretta automatic, standard issue to all Magellan Billet agents. He'd been allowed to keep the weapon when he retired and managed to smuggle it into Denmark--owning a handgun here was illegal.
He palmed the stock, finger on the trigger, and brought out the gun, shielding it with his thigh. He'd not held a weapon in more than a year. It was a feeling he'd thought part of his past, one he hadn't missed. But a man leaping to his death had grabbed his attention, so he'd come prepared. That was what a good agent did, and one of the reasons he'd served as the pallbearer for a few friends instead of being hauled down the center aisle of a church himself.
The two men were standing with their backs to him, arms at their sides, hands empty. Thunderous organ music masked his approach. He stepped close and said, "Busy night, fellows."
Both turned and he flashed the gun. "Let's keep this civil."
Over the shoulder of one of the men he caught sight of another man, a hundred feet down the transept, casually striding toward them. He saw the man reach beneath his leather jacket. Malone did not wait for what was next, and dove left into an empty row of pews. A pop echoed over the organ and a bullet tore into the wood pew ahead of him.
He saw the two other men reach for weapons.
From his prone position, he fired twice. The shots exploded through the cathedral, piercing the music. One of the men went down, the other fled. Malone came to his knees and heard three new pops. He dove back down as more bullets found wood near him.
He sent two more shots in the direction of the lone gunman.
The organ stopped.
People realized what was happening. The crowd started flooding from the pews past where Malone was hiding, seeking safety outside through the rear doors. He used the confusion to peer above the pew and saw the man in the leather jacket standing near the entrance to one of the side chapels.
"Stephanie," he called out over the mayhem.
"Stephanie. It's Cotton. Let me know if you're okay?"
Still no answer.
He belly-crawled forward, found the opposite transept, and rose to his feet. The path ahead rounded the church and led to the other side. Pillars lining the way would make any shot at him difficult, and then the choir would block him completely, so he ran forward.
STEPHANIE HEARD MALONE CALL HER NAME. THANK GOODNESS he never could mind his own business. She was still in the Magi Chapel, hiding behind a black marble tomb. She heard shots and realized Malone was doing what he could, but he was outnumbered at least three to one. She needed to help him, but what good could she be? She carried no weapon. At least she ought to let him know she was all right. But before she could answer, through another elaborate iron grille that opened into the church, she saw Bernard, gun in hand.
Fear seized her muscles and gripped her mind in an unfamiliar panic.
He entered the chapel.
MALONE ROUNDED THE CHOIR. PEOPLE WERE STILL RUSHING from the church, voices excited, hysterical. Surely someone had called the police. He just needed to contain his attackers until help arrived.
He looped the ambulatory and saw one of the men he'd shot helping the other out the rear doors. The one who'd started the attack was not in sight.
That worried him.
He slowed his pace and brought his gun to the ready.
STEPHANIE STIFFENED. BERNARD WAS TWENTY FEET AWAY.
"I know you're in here," he said in a deep, throaty voice. "Your savior arrived, so I have no time to deal with you. You know what I want. We shall meet again."
The prospect was not appealing.
"Your husband was unreasonable, too. He was made a similar offer eleven years ago with regard to the journal and refused."
She was stung by the man's words. She knew that she should remain silent, but there was no way. Not now. "What do you know of my husband?"
"Enough. Let's leave it at that."
She heard him walk away.
MALONE SAW LEATHER JACKET STEP FROM ONE OF THE SIDE chapels.
"Stop," he called out.
The man whirled and leveled his gun.
Malone dove toward a set of steps that led to another room jutting from the cathedral and rolled down half a dozen stone risers.
Three bullets smacked off the walls above him.
Malone scampered back up, ready to return fire, but Leather Jacket was a hundred feet away, running toward the rear vestibule, turning for the other side of the church.
Malone came to his feet and trotted forward.
"Stephanie," he called out.
He saw his old boss appear at the far side of the chapel. She walked toward him, a stony expression spread over her calm face. Sirens could be heard outside.
"I suggest we get out of here," he said. "There are going to be a lot of questions and I have the feeling you're not going to want to answer any of them."
"You got that right." She brushed by him.
He was just about to suggest that they use one of the other exits when the main doors were flung open and uniformed police swarmed inside. He still held his gun and they spotted it immediately.
Feet were planted and automatic weapons raised.
He and Stephanie froze.
"Hen til den landskab. Nu," came the command. To the ground. Now.
"What do they want us to do?" Stephanie asked.
Malone dropped his gun and started down to his knees. "Nothing good."