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 (9 page)


Île de la Cité Nighttime

March 15, 1355

er voice, like her body, was frail and shaking. But she didn't stop talking. She revealed the life of a young woman overwhelmed by a mystery. She had been fascinated with a man whose quest escaped her and whose strangeness she had taken
for love.

Flamel wrote it all down. He would look at her when she paused to catch her breath or weep. What he saw sent him quickly back to
his task.

The torturer showed no emotion as he held his breast rippers over her and stared at her body drenched in sweat. Perhaps he was contemplating the curves of her wounds or the black blood flowing over her skin. Perhaps he saw in this geography of evil some other world opened by the doors of suffering. What could a torturer be thinking as he meditated on his work engraved
in flesh?

A second later Flamel knew exactly what he was

“Enough,” the torturer shouted. “This is nothing but a waste of time. And time is de
ar to us.”

Flore went quiet. Her raspy breathing was all that could
be heard.

“But I'm telling t
he truth.”

“You are lost in your memories, in the meandering path of your miserable life. That doesn't interest me. Tell me about th
is Isaac.”

She began again, breaking down in sobs as she w
ent along.

As Flamel wrote, Isaac Benserade's portrait became clearer. He had been born and raised in the Jewish kahal of Girona, Spain, a beautiful city on the banks of the Onyar River. It was a religious community that hadn't changed since ancient times. But for a few Jewish residents, all of them scholars, this way of life, paced by ancient rites, wasn't sufficient. They sought more enli

Among them, Isaac was the most tormented. He had studied medicine to follow in his father's footsteps, but his thirst for knowledge hadn't been quenched. He attended rabbinical schools, studied sacred texts late into the night, and endlessly questioned Jewish outsiders who were traveling through the city. He even spent time with Christians—mostly monks, who were said to hold the ancient world's wisdom in their libraries. He also met with Arab Muslims. And the more he opened his heart to the vast world, the less he understood the God of his people, a God that seemed so unapproachable and unknow
able. Why?

It was one thing to talk with Christians, Muslims, and members of Islam's Sufi offshoot. It was entirely another to abandon his own faith and embrace another. But one day he heard about a different path, one reserved for those who would not renounce reason, nor their free will. It was a path that wasn't constricted by religion. And it held out the promise of revealing the soul, saving the body, and even changin
g society.

In Girona, they were called “followers.” In whispers, people called them “bellows,” because they would keep a fire going continually in order to conduct their experiments. Some people said they were delving into the mysteries of matter to better understand the soul, while others said they were studying the invisible laws of the universe to be more like God. Everyone agreed that they held a secret more fascinating than any other: tha
t of gold.

Flamel was writing feverishly, paying no attention to the woman's suffering. His fierce curiosity had overcome even his fear of the torturer. Impatient, he waited for Flore de Cenevières to finish her story and reveal Isaac Benserade
's secret.


Antoine Marcas's home

Day of his release from the hospital

arcas greeted Guy Andrivaux with a smile and a handshake. He gestured to his second armchair and asked the brother if he wanted something
to drink.

“Yes, thank you,” Andrivaux answered. “If it's not too much trouble. I walked over from the lodge, and I didn't realize how far it was. How are you

“Better,” Marcas said, getting two glasses, a bottle of whiskey for his friend, and a bottle of water for himself. “I'm waiting for the doctors to give me the okay to get back
to work.”

“Knowing you, I'm sure that can't be soon enough,” Andrivaux said, picking up a Masonic blue book on the table next to his armchair. “By the way, your colleague stopped by to ask a few questions. Hodecourt—that's his name, right? I'm glad he's a brother, but it would be better if you both attended the sa
me lodge.”

“Officially, he'll be the lead investigator until I get back. But I'm doing my own work f
rom here.”

“So, do you think the killer had a vengeance degree?” Andriv
aux asked.

“That's what I understand. It seems he has a real obsession. But we both know that those who hold the degree exact a symbolic vengeance. They never actually kill anyone. Anti-Freemason groups have spread that kind of crap about us for centuries, like the stories of Devil

Andrivaux sipped his whiskey while Marcas

“The degree is all play-acting developed in the eighteenth century by the bourgeoisie so they could feel like they were part of something secret. What we need to find out is how the murders relate to the man's twisted understanding of th
e ritual.”

“What about the

Marcas tried to read the grand secretary's face. “Can you be more

“A new version of that degree came into existence after the revolution. There was interest in avenging the death of Jacques de Molay, grand master of the

“Right,” Mar
cas said.

“As you know, he was burned in Paris in 1314 by order of the king. The day Louis XVI was executed in 1792, somebody jumped onto the scaffold, picked up the king's head, and shouted, ‘Jacques de Molay, you've finally been avenged.' That was more than four centuries later. To tell the truth, I think some Freemasons who held dear the ideals of the revolution saw the royalty's destruction of the order of the Temple as a first affront to thos
e ideals.”

“That's a historical aberration,” Marcas said. But he did agree that the Freemasons had restored Templar imagery, partly out of nineteenth-century romanticism and partly out of a pragmatic need to invent a prestigious lineage and attract the bright minds of
the time.

“Of course it's an aberration. But there is the story of the Templars' treasure, which was never found. Fascinatin
g legend.”

Marcas smiled. “The Templar treasure, hidden from King Phillip and lost. As my son would say, ‘IDBI'—I don't believe it. Let's forget those martyred knights, who have been served up with every kind of esoteric sauce, and focus on our

The grand secretary shrugged and looked around the room.“You're right, Marcas. Paul was your friend. We owe it to him and the poor fellow who was stabbed in the chamber of re

“I know what I need to do,” Marcas said. “I'm not just a police investigator. I'm a brother,
as well.”

“So it's up to you to avenge hi
s memory.”

The two men sat in silence. Outside, the night began its fight against the setting sun. The darkness rose like an undergr
ound tide.

Andrivaux broke the silence. “There's something that you need to know. Paul left a letter for you in my office on the night he was

“And you didn't give it to H

The grand secretary sipped his whiskey. “The letter was addressed to you,

Andrivaux pulled an envelope out of his jacket and handed it over. Marcas opened it and pulled out a black USB key and a business card with a message: “If something happens to me, read this and get my ancestor's sword back, no matter what. Your broth
er, Paul.”

Marcas showed the card to the grand secretary. Andrivaux nodded and gav
e it back.

By now the sun had disappeared, and the streetlights were going on. Marcas looked at
his watch.

“Damn! I've got to go. I promised my ex-wife that I'd have dinner with her. I'll be finished in a couple of hours, and when I get back I'll take a look at the flash drive. What can you tell me about t
he sword?”

Andrivaux looked stunned. “You're certainly not going out, are you? You were just released from the

“Don't worry,” Marcas answered. “I'll be fine, although I don't have much of an appetite after getting a gutful of sewage. So back to t
he sword.”

“I can't give you much help with that,” Andrivaux said, picking up his coat. “You already know that it's one of the most valuable pieces in our museum collection. It's the Marquis de Lafayette's Masonic sword. It's magnificent, with a flamed blade and mother-of-pearl grip. There are no others like it, and it was stolen the night Paul and the initiate were

Marcas grabbed his jacket and opened the apartment door, allowing the grand secretary to pass. “First we find the murderer. Then we find the sword. Or maybe it'll be the other way around. But we're going to do both. If we can't bring back Paul, at least we can return the sword to its rightful place. I


Hamadi oil complex

Present day

owerful spotlights illuminated an excavation the size of a swimming pool. A silver-haired man in a linen suit and gray tie was sitting on a stack of cinderblocks and smoking a cigarillo. He watched the
m come in.

“Hamid. What a pleasure to see you again,” the man said, standing up and embracing the Kuwaiti. “Welcome, m
y friend.”

Salaam alaikum,
” the Kuwaiti answered. “May Allah spread his goodness to your dear

“My home country can always use it. Aren't you going to introduce your friend?” The man eyed Winthrop with

“Samir, this is John Bush, a friend and an English investor,” Hamid said, setting down
his case.

The Lebanese man raised his arm, and two men with FN P90 submachine guns appeared from behind a pile of sheet metal. Winthop was taken aback. Those weapons were usually used by special forces. They could tear up a man in a bullet-p
roof vest.

“Don't take it as a sign of disrespect, Mister… Um, Bush, but your tailor didn't provide you with pockets big enough for large-caliber weapons. If you would kindly hand your toy over to my men, we would all feel more

Jack Winthrop said nothing. He put his weapon on the floor and took three steps back. He had expected this kind of reception. One of the strongmen picked up his gun, and the Lebanese m
an smiled.

“Perfect. The gold is in the crates over there. Can I see the money, my de
ar Hamid?”

The Kuwaiti handed over the large bag and walked over to the thr
ee crates.

“May I?”

“What is mine is yours, my friend,” the Lebanese man said, pulling out rolls of five-hundred-euro bills from the Kuwaiti's bag and setting them on the stack of cinderblocks nex
t to him.

Winthrop watched as the two men counted their booty, one in paper bills, and the other in gold. He lit a cigarette. How many times had he carried out this kind of assignment for Aurora Source? He felt the sweat trickle down his calf, where his Walther P99 was

The two men finished counting. The Lebanese man signaled his stooges to load the crates into the SUV. Winthrop perked his ears. Dull sounds were coming from the back of the hangar. Samir caught him looking in that direction and pursed his lips. An alarm went off in the ex-Mari
ne's head.

“I forgot one detail,” S
amir said.

“What's that?” Winthrop said, squatting to tie a

“Come see for yourself while Hamid supervises the loading.” Samir pointed to the source of
the noise.

“No thanks,” Winthrop said, s

Before the strongmen could react, Winthrop had his P99 against Samir's head. “Hands up. I don't like last-minute changes. It disrupts
my calm.”

The men had their automatic weapons aimed at

“One signal from me, and my guards will shred you to pieces, friend,” S
amir said.

“Maybe, but I'll blow your brains out first,” Winthop answered,

Samir wasn't even sweating. Maybe this wasn't a new thin
g for him.

The Kuwaiti had pu
lled back.

“Don't worry. Hamid has a lot of connections in this country. If something happens to him, I'll have trouble. The transaction is all fine. I just wanted to introduce you to someone. My men will lower their weapons as a sign of good faith. Come
with me.”

The strongmen obeyed. Winthrop followed the man in the suit, keeping his gun on him at all times. Behind a pile of gravel, he saw a gray tarp and the form of a person underneath it. When the form moaned, Samir picked up the canvas and threw it aside, revealing a bound and gagged man. His left eye was hanging by a bloody

“That's Omar, the man who found the gold bars they're loading into your SUV. We thought he was working for your organization. But we were duped. The trickster made a deal with a Syrian to intercept you on your way back to Kuwait City. They planned to execute you and get the gold back. I would have been held responsible. Not very polite
, was it?”

“No, it wasn't,” Winthrop said, looking at the man. He lowered h
is weapon.

Samir squatted and caressed the man's forehead. “Omar will be a good boy while Samir sees his guests out. Then nice Samir will take care of evil Omar's second eye. Our business together is finished, Mr. Winthrop. It was a

Winthop turned around and joined Hamid at
the exit.

Three minutes later, the two men were back in the SUV, weighed down with three crates of gold. Just before slamming the door, Winthrop heard a shriek from t
he hangar.

Samir tapped the driver's-side window. “My men have started giving Omar his lesson. I told them to wait. But these young ones have no patience. You know the Druze proverb: ‘The wait increases the pleasure tenfold.' Safe travels, my

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