Read The Lafayette Sword Online

Authors: Eric Giacometti

Tags: #Freemasons;Freemason secrets;Freemasonry;Gold;Nicolas Flamel;thriller;secret societies;Paris;New York;Statue of Liberty;esoteric thriller;secret;secret knowledge;enlightenment;Eiffel tower

The Lafayette Sword (10 page)

36

Île de la Cité

March 15, 1355

N
icolas Flamel put his pen down. He had been writing so long, his wrist was trembling. Flore had g
one quiet.

The torturer's voice welled up from under his hood. “Did he frequent al
chemists?”

“Yes, for t
en years.”

Hunched over his table, Flamel hesitated before writing t
he number.

“Why so long?” the torturer
bellowed.

“They work with the seasons. He told me that one can achieve the goal only at certain precise moments of the year. That was why he was in a hurry to rea
ch Paris.”

“You're lying. It was our king who called him. And your dog ran here because they're finally cracking down on infidels in Spain. Do you know what we do to those who don't confess God
's truth?”

“No, I'm telling the truth. The
seasons…”

He snapped the breast rippers twice. “Do you hear that? They're hungry for your body, and I can't hold them back any longer, because you'
re lying.”

“No!”

Flamel's plume slipped from his fingers. His forehead was drenched in sweat. He focused on the oil lamp above his head, but his curiosity was greater than
his fear.

“I must return you alive, but I was not told in wh
at state.”

The clicking claw was just inches above her quiveri
ng breast.

Flore shrieked. “Isaac failed. That's why he came to Paris. When the king called him, Isaac thought it was a sign that he was finally on the ri
ght path.”

“And why Paris?” The inquisitor's voice was more dispassi
onate now.

“People in Girona had told him that one could still find the sec
ret here.”

“Th
e secret?”

The woman sai
d nothing.

“So he didn't find the book,” the tort
urer said.

“How do you know?” Flore's voic
e wavered.

“It's not for you to ask the questions! And you, scribe, if you hold your life dear, forget what I just said. Where is this book? Whe
re is it?”

Flamel stood up. His head was spinning. The torturer threw his ripper down and pulled off his hood. His face bore an
evil grin.

“So you know nothing? Then for you, there will be worse than
torture.”

“A sentence. He said a
sentence.”

“What?”

Flamel leaned against the wall, his vision blurring and his belly in spasms. He slid t
he ground.

“The blade follows the flame of pe
rfection.”

The torturer pulled off his cassock. “Now I can pu
rify you.”

37

Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, Paris

Evening of Marcas's release from the hospital

“D
o you really want to know my thoughts concerning Jesus?” Marcas said, trying to cut into his profiterole without maki
ng a mess.

“Yes, please. Everyone says that you Freemasons have a lot of secrets. If Catholics have hated you for so many centuries, it must be because you think you know something about Jesus that we don't know,” said the hostess, a perfectly coiffed woman who looked like she was in he
r fifties.

Marcas regretted accepting the dinner invitation even before he arrived. About three months earlier, his ex-wife, Isabelle, had become infatuated with this eccentric aristocrat, who had introduced her to certain intellectuals, writers, and critics, none of them very accomplished, in his view. Marcas was angry with her. Wasn't she capable of finding another man or at least attending these things by herself? And wasn't suffering life-threatening injuries sufficient to get him out of the deal? It was no use. He had accepted the invitation long ago, and if he had sent his regrets she was capable of keeping his son from him. How had the mother of his child turned into such a mean-spiri
ted woman?

It was during the main course that Marcas understood why Isabelle had been so adamant. Their hostess asked him why he had become a Freemason. Marcas nearly choked on his roasted duck. So he was the main course at this dinner—the Freemason. Why had Isabelle disclosed such personal information about him to a woman he didn't know from Adam? There was a lot of animosity between them, yes, but wasn't she capable of keeping some thing
s private?

The hostess threw out one question after another, and Marcas fought to remain
composed.

“In your view, was Jesus an adept?” she asked. “Did he survive t
he cross?”

Marcas was silent as he pressed his knife down on the profiterole. The vanilla ice cream squirted onto his ex's plate. It w
as a sign.

“I'll be honest, madam. If you want to know whether Jesus survived the cross, ask your priest, not me. Let's be clear. I respect everyone else's beliefs. There are plenty of Christians in Freemason lodges all over the world, and some jurisdictions swear on the Bible. But the Church hasn't exactly been a friend of the Freemasons. If you remember, when Benedict XVI was still Cardinal Ratzinger he claimed that all Freemasons were in a state of serious sin. And on that note, I'll wish you goodnight. I have better things to do than sit around your dinner table. These includes finding the bastard who murdered two of my Freemason
brothers.”

Marcas felt the weight of all the eyes on him. He stood up, nodded to the hostess and his ex, and headed toward the door. The sooner he got out of there, the better. He grabbed his jacket. Isabelle had stood up and followed him, but he slammed the do
or on her.

It was eleven thirty, high time to get back home and look at the flash drive Paul de Lambre had left
for him.

As his computer booted, Marcas contemplated the USB drive in his hand. He hesitated before inserting it, afraid he'd be sucked into a spiral from which he couldn't escape. But he had to do it. If he didn't, Hodecourt would, and he wasn't about to hand the flash drive over to him. Marcas sometimes experienced an ethical moment, when he had to choose between his duty as a brother and his duty as a cop. This wasn't one of them. He was doing his duty as a cop, but he was also protecting his brother's personal space. Hodecourt had no business here. Giving him the drive would be like leaving a dead friend with a stranger. Paul de Lambre had trusted him, Marcas, with this, and he had done the ri
ght thing.

The screen lit up, and after a few seconds the white rectangle asking for the password appeared. How had Paul forgotten to include it in his message? If Marcas had to, he'd have a computer specialist at police headquarters find the password, but he'd try to do it himself first. Marcas thought about Lafayette and his sword and tried several variations of that theme. He failed. Then he tried Masonic words that came to mind when he thought of his friend, but he got nothing but error
messages.

What he wouldn't do for a cigarette now. Marcas longed to shake one out of a pack, tap it against his hand, and light it with his French knight Zippo, which, ironically, had been made in the United States. Isabelle had given it to him when they were
newlyweds.

As soon as he put aside that image, the vision of Paul, bloody and slumped over in his chair, re
placed it.

He shook it off and looked back at the little white rectangle. He imagined himself in a leather armchair, his mind making perfect use of inductive logic, like Descartes or Sherlock Holmes. But that wasn't exactly the way he worked. His method was more about letting go of all pretentions of logic and infallible reason. His method was much more
personal.

He got up to stretch and let his mind wander to memories of Paul. The grief over his friend's death helped to bring memories to the surface: the intonation of his voice, his laughter during dinners at the lodge, and his mischievous smile when a talkative brother was getting ready
to speak.

What word had they shared, the two of them? What sesame, what Proustian Madeleine would open
the door?

Lou. The name of the little girl Paul had always dreamed of having but never would. He had shared that regret during a rare night spent drinking together. It had resonated with Marcas, because he was in the middle of his divorce. The house was empty, and he missed his son so badly, if felt as though his heart had been torn out of his chest. Their sense of loss would forever bon
d the men.

Lou.

Marcas typed the thre
e letters.

The white rectangle vanished, and a text appeared, as if
by magic.

38

Near Kuwait City

Present day

W
inthrop and his companion passed the northern guard post and headed toward Kuwait City. Five kilometers north, he spotted an SUV in flames and slowed down. It was surrounded by two police cars and an ambulance. What looked like four bodies, covered by a black tarp, were lined up on t
he ground.

The two men glanced at each other. Samir's men had thwarted the ambush. Winthrop shrugged. He felt no compassion. The victims in this kind of work were usually smugglers who didn't suffer any angst when they were called on to kill. In five years, he had pulled the trigger for the organization just twice. His instructions were clear: use violence as a last resort. At first he thought he would be a garden-variety bodyguard, but actually his job was to ensure the safety of the gold more than the person with
the gold.

He was a gold
mercenary.

He had no regrets. He earned five times more money than he would in any other security job. He had two assignments a month on average, with varying durations, and he had time to spend with his wife and kids, who were living in Pensacola, Florida. As far as his wife and the IRS knew, he was a security consultant for a company based i
n El Paso.

He shifted into third gear. The SUV was slower with the gold bars weighing down the back. It took them a half hour to reach their destination: a newly constructed five-story hotel with Moorish architecture. The garage door to the left of the building opened, and he drove into th
e complex.

An hour later, Jack Winthrop was lounging under an umbrella at the hotel swimming pool, his hair still wet from a dip in the cool water. He was writing up a detailed report. Aurora protocol required that he file a report daily by encrypted e-mail. He hit “send” and put his phone down. He had a whole day before his flight, and he wondered how he would spend it. Kuwait City was not exactly the kingdom of a thousand and one nights: no alcohol, no nightclubs, and forget about sex. The bars in the major hotels offered the only opportunities for encounters, and the competition was formidable: ten men for ev
ery woman.

A tall, athletic brunette in a yellow bikini sauntered by, a towel thrown over her shoulder. She sat down two umbrellas away and glanced at him. He smiled. She was a pro, but he had the means. Just as he was imagining her wrapped around him in his hotel room, a broad-shouldered man with a buzz cut walked up to her. A military man turned consultant, no doubt. He was already rubbing sunscreen on
her back.

Out of luck. Winthrop wished he was in Dubai. At least there pleasures, vices, and human weaknesses were tolerated. His phone
vibrated.

Aurora Source to Auror
a Security

Report received. Congratulations on your success. Human losses are regrettable. No other operations in view before the end of the month. The sum of $18,600 has been transferred to your account at the Bermuda Vernet Bank in Nassau. Saf
e travels.

Winthrop grinned. A nice day's pay for a little drive through the desert. He sometimes wondered how many other agents like him traveled around the world to “facilitate” the gold market. Three times he had been sent two men and a woman as backup. All three were security specialists like him, and none of them were very
talkative.

He watched a plane leave a trail of white in the blue sky before he closed his eyes to imagine where Aurora Source would send him next. The dank smell of oil came back to him, along with the vision of Omar with his eye hanging loose. How many men had died for gold since the dawn of time? Together, gold and blood were an eternal alloy. His employer loved telling stories about the precious metal and had reveled in recounting the tale of Marcus Licinius Crassus's horrible death. The Roman general, a rival of Caesar and Pompei, loved gold above all else. The Parthinian army captured him during a bloody battle and executed him in front of his men by pouring molten gold down his throat. At least that's what his employer had said. Winthrop had read enough military history to know that the account was
disputed.

As for him, Winthrop wasn't particularly attached to gold, and in his line of work, this was definitely an asset. During one of his first assignments in Peru, the local Aurora representative had suggested that he take a bar for himself, but Winthrop had politely declined. Good call. It was a standard test to measure the integrity of employees. He always wondered what would have happened if he had
accepted.

Fatigue overtook him, and he fell into a deep, dreaml
ess sleep.

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