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 (3 page)

6

Île de la Cité, Paris

March 13, 1355

W
alking across the bridge, the man in black didn't bother to glance at the crowd amassed along the banks of the Seine. Neither the obscenities they hurled nor the thick odor of burning torches could distract him from his task. He had nothing but disdain for these slaves, who would be drunk on blood and flames in a matter of hours. One couldn't expect anything else. Saint Augustine had been correct when he said that God's grace touched only a handful of chosen people. Inflexible men who embodied God's will and acted alone in his name. He had nothing in common with this vile multitude that would rollick at the feet
of death.

When he was a child, he had attended a decapitation with his father and had seen people like these. They pretended to honor a God of love in church yet cried out in joy at the sight of blood. Their macabre dance on that day had distanced him forever from his peers. He had sworn to obey only God. And tonight he was once again keeping
his word.

He knocked and waited at the prison entrance. A guard opened the door and backed up when recognized who he was. The torturer smiled in the darkness. Like the others in his guild, he carried the sin of blood. Everyone who came close to him silently cursed and feared him. He was “the shortest path to hell,” as a horrified royal advisor had said after having the bad idea of visiting the jail while he was at work. The advisor had never returned. Since then he had sent letters explaining the charges requiring confession. This was a place no outsider would choos
e to come.

Excep
t tonight.

When the torturer entered the quarters set aside for him, he found a bearded man in court dress sitting on a stool in front of the fire. He was impatiently tapping
his foot.

Seeing the torturer, he said, “Don't stand there in the wind. Close the door and come
forward.”

The torturer started down the stairs to the room where he would do his work. The man held up
his hand.

“Stop there, sir, and sit down on the last step. We have things to talk about, but it isn't necessary that you see any more of my face, and I… I don't want to s
ee yours.”

The torturer didn't answer. He disliked haughty nobles. They had power only on this earth, and God would judge them. He remembered the words of an Italian poet, Dante Alighieri, who had died at the turn of the century. He had described the circles of hell. The torturer smiled at the memory of the agony reserved for
the vain.

“So you prefer to remain silent? Just as well. I'm the one who has something to say, and I don't like to be int
errupted.”

The nobleman didn't want to be stared at, but the torturer watched him anyway. The man held his hands out to the fire. The flames flickered over his white skin, like a snake weaving its way toward
its prey.

7

Grand Orient Masonic Hall

Evening of the initiation

G
abriel Cimés had been sitting there for two long hours, and by now his heart was in his boots. Sure, he had been told about the time he would spend in the chamber of reflection, with its macabre accessories, but he was ready to get on with it. He didn't even dare to look at the wall. In the candlelight, the shadow of the skull—more than three meters tall—was undulating in a mocki
ng dance.

Gabriel took out his handkerchief and wiped his sweaty hands. Had he been wrong about the brotherhood? What if their explanation of the rites was really a lie? What if the things he had read online were really true? Would they try to force him to do satan
ic things?

He was
panicking.

He wanted to get up and leave. It wouldn't take him more than three minutes to get out of the building and be outside with re
al people.

The skull on the desk stared at him, its black orbs showing nothing but emptiness. Gabriel tried to quiet his fears. His sponsor had told him that anxiety was normal. He had to trust. Everything was a matter
of trust.

He was almost ashamed, like a scared little kid hiding under the covers. He had to become a man again, to focus on what had motivated him to join the Freemasons. He smiled at the memory. The ideal of building a better society and improving himself to he
lp others.


Bullshit.”

He'd fooled them. He had told the three brother inspectors and his sponsor what they wante
d to hear.

He was in this place because he was looking for a way up in the world. He was forty-seven years old and once again a rising real estate agent. The fraud charges brought against him five years earlier, when he was living on the Riviera, were nothing more than a bad memory. What he needed now was connections. He didn't give a damn about the rites, symbols, and the Great Architect with his compass and all that crap. No, he wanted the signs of recognition and secret handshakes to use at business meetings. He wanted to be part of an organization where a man scratched his brother's back and got his own back scratched in return. He needed to be a mover and shaker. That's what drew him to the brotherhood, not the prospect of defending a secular government or learning esote
ric rites.

If he had to spend another five hours in this rat hole with shadows dancing on the walls, he would. As soon as he was initiated, he'd use the pretext of a move to find a lodge with the right people—people with money. Paris was worth a Mass for Henry IV. Well, for Gabriel Cimes, it was worth an i
nitiation.

Gabriel jumped when he heard four knocks at the door. He tried to lo
ok humble.

A man in a fancy apron entered the narrow space. He was carrying a long gol
den sword.

“I
t's time.”

Gabriel started to stand up, but the man slammed a hand on his shoulder, forcing him to sta
y seated.

“Sit,
neophyte.”

Gabriel slumped in the chair, dazed by the blow. He clenched his jaw. He had to show obedience. He would not rebel. This was just p
layacting.

The great expert pulled out a pair of handcuffs. “These are a sign of submission. Put your hands behind your back and say, ‘Yes, I wa
nt this.'”

The initiate did as he was told. “Yes, I wa
nt this.”

The man cuffed Gabriel's wrists to the chair and then looked him up
and down.

“Why do you want to become a F
reemason?”

“Out of love of t
ruth and—”

The interrogator punched him in the mouth, and Gabriel felt the bite of the man's ring on his lips. This was brutal and not at all like the rite described by a former grand master in the book
Becoming a Freemason in Ten Easy Lessons
, a how-to guide he had found in a b
ookstore.

The man in black held the sword under Gabriel's nose. The blade gleamed in the ca
ndlelight.

“You will go from darkness to light, but first you must leave your metals at the entrance to the temple. We do not allow greed-motivated profane to enter the temple. Why do you want to become a F
reemason?”

“Out of love
of truth—”

The sword came down on Gabriel. He nearly cried out in pain. The man had sliced his leg. The blood was spreading on h
is pants.

“Stop. This is going
too far.”

“I told you. We don't want any black sheep. We've made it harder to join now. I've been given the responsibility of changing the initiation ceremony. You must tell me your true motivations.” He let his voice trail off, allowing a moment of silence before saying, “When I believe you're telling the truth, you will come out of the black
passage.”

Gabriel's head was spinning. His wrist was throbbing, and his leg hurt. He had underestimated the brothers' investigation. They knew about his past and wanted a confession. So this was a trap. He sat up straight and cleared h
is throat.

“I am here in search of t
he truth.”

The man twirled the blade elegantly and brought it down on Gabriel's cheek, leaving a deep cut. Gabriel twisted in pain but couldn't escape. His eyes filled with tears. He was ve
ry afraid.

“You're crazy. Stop this crap. Le
t me out.”

The man in black smiled for the first time. He played with the sword, his back to the wall. “Give me the right answers. Free yourself of your metals, and the sword will return to it
s sheath.”

He set the weapon down and walked behind Gabriel. He put his hands on the initiate's shoulders. His voice
softened.

“I wasn't so altruistic when I joined either. I also had self-serving goals. Free your conscience before the Great A
rchitect.”

Gabriel was shaking. He didn't want to spend one more minute with this freak. “I want… I want to make friends. I want connections to help my career… I regret my mistakes. I want t
o change.”

The man patted his shoulder. Gabriel felt the blood streaming down his cheek and wished he had a free hand to assess h
is injury.

The man's voice rang out in the silence. “I congratulate you for being so honest. You will now enter the temple. I'll get rid of t
he cuffs.”

Gabriel heard the clatter of metal falling to the floor. The man slipped his hands under his arms to help him up. He handed the initiate a compress for his wounds. Gabri
el swayed.

“That's an impressive test. You really scared me. Wha
t's next?”

“I'll lead you to the temple, where you will face other tests. Open your shirt and expose your shoulder. Then stand against the wall. I'll place the tip of the sword on your heart to symbolize that you have let go of your profa
ne fears.”

Gabriel was feeling relieved. This part of the rite agreed with what he had read in the book. He did as he was told. The man in the apron picked up the sword and placed the tip on the initiate's
pectoral.

“Are you ready to leave darkness and obscurantism and enter the light as a
free man?”

“I am.”

“Look me in the eyes. Are you ready to die to be born again? You can still turn back and return to t
he world.”

“I am.”

The man in the apron grinned. He pulled the sword back and plunged it into Gabrie
l's chest.

“You asked for it. Let the lig
ht enter.”

Gabriel opened his eyes wide as the cold metal entered his heart and pain spread through his chest. He tried to grab the sword, but he couldn't move. He couldn't even scream. All he saw was the huge shadow of the skull dancing on the wall. And then nothing but
darkness.

The killer wiped the blade on his cotton apron and returned it to its sheath. He looked at h
is victim.

“You little shit. There are too many pathetic candidates like you. The brothers will thank me. I am the Sword
of Light.”

He wrapped his hands around the skull and placed it on the profan
e's chest.

“I kill, and I a
m reborn.”

8

Île de la Cité

March 13, 1355

T
he torturer couldn't distinguish the lord's facial features. All he could make out was the light patch of beard. The wood crackling in the fireplace sounded like bones
breaking.

“You have a grand reputation, sir,” the lord said. “The Dominicans who employ you praise your powers of persuasion. It's said that you track lies to the depths of the flesh and that none can resist your skilled hands. Is t
his true?”

“I do my duty, milord, for the greater glor
y of God.”

“God? Are you so sure? But never mind. I'm not here to discuss God. I'm here to discuss the prisoner who's waiting for you. What did the Dominicans
tell you?”

“That I was to help a heretic who refused to confess his mista
ken ways.”

“You were to help him by tortu
ring him?”

“By punishing impure flesh, by tormenting the error-prone mind. This is how we sav
e a soul.”

The nobleman sighed. “Souls aren't my concern. And it isn't a man from whom you must force a confession. It's a woman who has committed the crime of offending a s
overeign.”

“So she's already c
onfessed?”

“Not what we wanted her to
tell us.”

The torturer was
confused.

“We're burning the Jew because we won't get any more from him,” the nobleman said. “His companion, however, is another story. She's a young lass, no more than twenty, I'd say. She has something to live for and will talk. Particularly in your expert hands. Write down everything she says. Pay special attention if it's abou
t a book.”

“W
hat book?”

“You're very curious, master torturer! Just like your Dominican friends. And they don't like books, especially the ones they don't un
derstand.”

“There are too many books spreading heretical ideas. We must fight them witho
ut mercy.”

“And the Dominicans, as good sons of the Church, hunt down books relentlessly. Isn't
that so?”

“Books harbor t
he Devil.”

The nobleman rubbed his beard before responding. “I'm not interested in your opinion about literature. But listen well. If the suspect makes the slightest allusion to a book, you must write everything down exactly as you hear it and report ba
ck to me.”

“Milord, when a suspect talks, I am not the one who takes down what he says. A Dominican brother collects his words. I'm not charged with doing that. If you wish, I will get one of the
brothers.”

“It's out of the question to have a Dominican at this questioning. You will write it down
yourself.”

“That's impossible. I don't know how to write. That's a cle
rk's job.”

The aristocrat stood up. “I must leave. You will listen carefully to what I hav
e to say.”

The torturer got to his feet and adjusted his hood so he could hear e
very word.

“Find a scribe. A layman. A simple man who copies without trying to un
derstand.”

The torturer nodded. Clearly, this noble was used to being obeyed and didn't have the sense of unease that lesser nobles felt in regard to the Holy Inquisition. Perhaps he was close to the royal family. He heard the nobleman's robe rustle and then a voice nea
r his ear.

“Choose him with utmost care, because it is his life, and yours, that are
in play.”

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