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 (7 page)

24

Île de la Cité

March 14, 1355

D
eath. Nicolas Flamel knew the minute he entered this foul-smelling den that his life would be threatened. But curiously, at this particular moment he was more concerned about the girl's destiny than his own. Under his breath he said a prayer for her poor soul. How could God allow such horrors? Her eyes… There wasn't just agony in them. There was innoc
ence too.

The torturer walked around the table and sat down on the narrow stone bench that ran along t
he walls.

“She arrived in Paris three weeks ago with the Jew the king brought over from beyond the Pyrenees. The maledict Jew was the one who was burned last night. He said she was his daughter. He also said that she does not speak, that she has been mute since birth. But it's a trick. She doesn't know a word of
Spanish.”

A smile as sharp as a knife cut across the tortur
er's face.

“Since she was handed over to me, the hand of justice has investigated,” he continued. “New evidence has come to light. Serious
issues.”

Flamel's breathing accelerated as Jehan Arthus pursued
his tale.

“The road from Spain is long. To survive, the son of Zion used his talents as a physician. Along the way, he treated people who were sick. At least two people—one of them in a monastery—claimed he had healed them. It was easy for the king's bloodhounds to retrace the man's steps. Everywhere, people praised his skills, even those who said they hadn't bee
n healed.”

“Certainly, he had a gift from God,” Flamel suggested wiping the sweat from
his brow.

“Or a gift from the Devil,” the torturer said. “Near Cahors, in Quercy, he was called to the bedside of a sick noblewoman. Yes, a noblewoman. In a matter of life and death some are willing to put their fate in the hands
of a Jew.”

“All of God's creatures fear having to appear before the Creator. It's unders
tandable.”

“You copy too many bad sermons,” the torturer said. “You should spend more time meditating on our Lord's parables about the rich and powerful. The gates of heaven will not open for all the gold in the world. Believe me, the nobility will end up in the worst torments of hell. But let's return to the noblewoman. She survived the illness. The heretic gave her a remedy called drinkable gold, and she lived. As she got better, however, her mind began to decline. The devil's brew took possession of the weak woman'
s spirit.”

Flamel didn't dare to ask any
questions.

“The Jew prepared to leave once he knew his brew was working. But it didn't take long for the domestics to realize he had poisoned
her mind.”

“He had poisoned
her mind?”

“The woman was a widow and a mother. She sold her daughter to the Jew in exchange for her health. She turned her daughter into a whore. And now the girl is soiled. Soiled to the depths of
her soul.”

The tormentor lowered his voice as if he were exhausted. Flamel signed himself. It was a pact with the devil. Life for
innocence.

The torturer stared at h
is victim.

“But she will confess everything, and then I will purify her… In the place where sh
e sinned.”

25

Somewhere under Paris

Evening of the initiation

M
arcas clutched the grate with both hands, awaiting the moment he'd be gasping for air. The water was swirling around his neck. He could see the killer's dark and dilated pupils. He felt the man's hand on his, as if he were
a friend.

“You're right. I'm obligated to help you. After all, I have nothing aga
inst you.”

“Close the shit shoots,” Marcas
cried out.

“It's not that simple. I'll ask three questions, which a Mason with a pure heart should find easy to answer. If you give the correct responses, I'll save you. This should be fun, don't y
ou think?”

Marcas examined the cracks and loose stones around the grate. Even if he did find a place that looked weak enough, he didn't know if he'd have the strength to smash through. He had rammed the grate so many times already, his shoulder ached. The man threw out the first
question.

“Why do we wear
a sword?”

“Fuck you. To shove it up your ass,” the inspector spat out with a mouthful of fil
thy water.

The killer shook
his head.

“No, no. It harks back to the knightly orders we descend from. I'll give you another chance. What purpose does the swo
rd serve?”

“For initiations! Any idiot knows that.” Marcas's face was now pressed against
the grate.

“What is the flaming sword? Choose your answer carefully, because there's some disa
greement.”

Marcas was fighting for air. The flaming sword, the flame-bladed sword… That was something they learned later on the Masonic path. “It's the venerable master's sword, the staff of Moses, the snake of knowledge
. Dammit!”

The rusty edges of the metal grate were scratching Marcas's lips. “It's a symbol of the light,” he
cried out.

The water stopp
ed rising.

“Congratulations. You know your Masonic catechism well. We could copyright this game, don't you think? We could call it Questions for
Brethren.”

The man's face danced before his eyes, and Marcas could barely hear his words. The water had stopped rising, but it wasn't retreating. He couldn't breathe. His vision was blurry. He arms were weak. He let go and starte
d sinking.

Everything w
ent black.

26

Île de la Cité

March 14, 1355

J
ehan Arthus slipped a rope through a hook in the ceiling. Flamel had heard about this kind of torture. The suspect would hang by her wrists until her tendons failed under the weight of her body. Her muscles would be next. In a matter of hours, she would be nothing more than a dislocated puppet, still alive, swinging from
the rope.

A knock shook the door. It was one of t
he guards.

“Milord, the seigneur from the other night wants to talk to you. Imm
ediately.”

“Stay here, Flamel. I won't be long. This visitor is a member of the royal court. I gather the king is impatient. Their guest is taking too long to start
talking.”

The door closed, and the lock clicked. Nicolas opened his writing satchel. He unrolled his parchment and began sharpening his pens. He turned away from the naked woman on the stone. He couldn't look at those eyes filled with pain and innocence. He couldn'
t bear it.

He smoothed the goose feather with the back of his hand and opened his glass
ink vial.

Behind him, he heard a convulsive movement on the table. The girl was shaking—from fear, no doubt. Flamel had an urge to turn around and pull the gag out of her mouth. But such a rash act would cost him his life. Frightened by the notion of his own folly, Flamel focused on the long wooden table where the torturer had laid out the tools o
f his art.

He paled at the sight of the foot press: heavy wooden plates that tightened around a victim's foot. And the thumbscrew, which crushed flesh and bones and to
re nerves.

Since the great Cathar heresy and the witchcraft epidemics, torture had become a real science. The Inquisition carefully codified its use. A suspect could suffer for weeks on end without dying or even losing consciousness. When it came to breaking a human's will, it seemed that anything was permissible, even purification of the body. The term Jehan Arthus had used echoed in Flamel's mind, causing him
to shiver.

He heard the key turn. The torture
r entered.

“Flamel, do you
have wax?”

“Yes, to seal
letters—”

“Give
it to me.”

The copyist held out a red stick. The torturer grabbed
a candle.

“Wax seals not only letters, Flamel, but al
so words.”

A stifled scream filled the room. Flamel instinctively turned around and almos
t vomited.

The torturer was pouring wax into the young woman's ears. Her face was twisted in terror and pain, and her arms and legs were shaking violently. It was as if she was being lashed by an invisi
ble whip.

The smoking wax continued to flow, and the smell of burning flesh filled the room. Then she stopped moving. The torturer
looked up.

“This way she won't hear what I hav
e to say.”

“You could have just plugged her ears with
a cloth.”

“You will not question my methods,” the torturer hissed. “Do you un
derstand?”

Flamel felt the blood drain from
his face.

“You know nothing about this quest for the truth. The king's envoy has required that I spare the woman's life. If she hears that, she will nev
er speak.”

“But how can she speak if she doesn't hear your q
uestions?”

The torturer let out a raspy laugh.“But I don't have any q
uestions.”

“I don't un
derstand.”

The torturer grabbed the breast ripper and tested its points. “I never ask q
uestions.”

“But why?”

“To test my suspects. To force them to say everything. If they don't know what I'm looking for, they won't know what
to hide.”

He clicked the brea
st ripper.

“And so your suspects
say more.”

The torturer tore off the gag and ripped the wax out o
f one ear.

“Prepare to write, Maste
r Flamel.”

PART TWO

When a secret is revealed, it is the fault of the man who confided it.

—
Jean de La Bruyère
, Les Caractères

Confide your secrets only to those who have sought to guess them.

—
Comtesse Diane de Beausacq
, Femme de lettres

27

Present day

Aurora Source to
all Aurora

Weekly bulletin sent by encrypted e-mail to all members of the Aur
ora group.

Trading price
. The price of gold has been stable for two weeks, but Aurora Singapore has issued
an alert.

Reserves
. Aurora Cap analyzed worldwide gold reserves. Annual gold mine production currenlty stands at 2,530 tons. Annual worldwide gold demand (for jewelry, financial markets, and industrial applications) is 3,200 tons. Worldwide gold reserves are 48,000 tons. Key supply countries include South Africa, 19,000 tons; the United States, 5,600 tons; Australia, 5,000 tons; and China
, unknown.

New estimate for the year the world's gold reserves will be depleted: 2027. We confirm our previous analysis. Future gold shortages will cause an unprecedented rise in prices. Gold prices are expected to soar to as much as twenty times their present level, especially once the international media start focusing on this issue. Aurora Zurich's simulation suggests that gold purchases worldwide will explode. I quote from their confidential report: “People will rush to purchase gold jewelry, coins, and bars… With its imminent extinction, gold will once again become a sa
fe haven.”

Other
. Our agent in the Security and Intervention Department relayed the identity of the German gold-bar seller to the Peruvian authorities: Roberto Guttierez, AKA Gunther Müller, son of
Obersturmbannführer
Müller, who fled to South America before he could be officially charged with war crimes. The elder Müller died in 1999 in Lima. Ten gold bars were found in Guttier
ez's home.

Operation Burning Desert has kicked off
in Kuwait.

28

Bichat Hospital, Paris

Present day

W
hite. Everything was white—with one exception. The blurry figure in front of him was light blue. Where was he? He wanted to sit up, but as soon as he tried, a searing pain coursed through his body. Out of breath, he fell back. The taste of bile and dish liquid filled
his mouth.

He heard a calm voice. “Calm down, sir. Don't move. You've got an IV in
your arm.”

The room was coming into focus now. He could make out the nurse's scrubs and raven-colored hair. She was wearing a nametag, but he couldn't read the letters. He looked down and saw that he was in a hospital bed, dressed in nothing but a
thin gown.

A deeper voice came from his left. “That'll teach you to play Tintin in the catacombs. You're too old for t
hat shit.”

The impressively stout man was sitting on a plastic chair that didn't look strong enough to support him. He threw the magazine he was reading on the side table and shooed the n
urse away.

“You got lucky,” he said. “Drinking an icy sewage cocktail isn't so good for th
e health.”

Marcas stared at the large man with the red face. He knew him. Inspector Hodecourt was a colleague, with the nickname Big Brother—because of his size and his no
sy nature.

“The drugs they've got you on will make your mind a little fuzzy for the time being, but I'd still like to ask you a few questions and give you a quick
rundown.”

Marcas tried to sit up again but couldn't
manage it.

“They've put me in charge of the investigation, at least until you're on your feet,” Hodecourt said. “I'm figuring the chief will want you to take over once you're good to go. Fortunately, I'm a son of the widow too, which will make thing
s easier.”

Marcas knew that Hodecourt was a Freemason, like him, although he attended a differ
ent lodge.

“Okay, let's start with the killer. Can you remember what he looked like? You're the only one who has
seen him.”

Marcas didn't want to be questioned lying down. With considerable effort, he managed to prop himself up on h
is pillow.

“I want to give you a description, but first tell me how you found me. The last thing I remember is going under t
he water.”

His colleague pulled out a brown
notebook.

“A team from the local precinct arrived ten minutes after your brothers called. Two uniforms went down in the tunnel with the grand secretary, and they found you half downed in the sewer tank, which was draining. You were barely breathing, and you stank to high hell. That was one very brave colleague who gave you mouth-
to-mouth.”

“I don't understand. What about the wall? The one between the tunnel and the tank? That's how I got trapped. Did the killer
save me?”

Hodecourt
shrugged.

“I don't know. Apparently the wall gave way under the pressure of the water. Once you were rescued, the uniforms forced open the grate that led to another sewage network and a maintenance room on the Rue de la Grange-Batelière, where a lock had been forced open. The killer got away without be
ing seen.”

Marcas felt a headache coming on, and his stomach was kn
otting up.

Hodecourt looked at his watch and smiled. “I have to cut our conversation short. The nurse warned me that the sleeping pill would
kick in.”

“Shit…”

“You said it. In any case, they'll probably release you tomorrow.” Hodecourt lifted himself out of his chair. “And I'll tell everyone at police headquarters how you're doing. A lot of them wanted to visit, but the doctors said you need your rest. It's just as well. You don't strike me as the kind of guy who likes being surrounded by flowers and get-well
balloons.”

“Much appreciated,” Marcas offered a faint smile before his head clouded over. Hodecourt's voice became fainter and fainter before finally drifting away. He didn't hear the d
oor close.

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