The Sunday Express (UK) In a hail of fire and flashing sword, as the burning city of Acre falls from the hands of the West in , The Last Templar opens with a. The First Knights Templar Mystery For my parents and for Jane, my wife, for their So now this crowd was here to witness the filial humiliation, the last indignity. THE LAST TEMPLAR BY Raymond Khoury THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER "Fast-paced, highly cinematic the perfect read for.

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The Last Templar Pdf

ously knowledgeable and blasé, the reporter was going for earnest this time as she stared into the lens. 'I can't remember the last time the Met hosted such a star . Download The Last Templar free pdf, Download The Last Templar Pdf, Read Online. The Last Templar pdf, Free The Last Templar Ebook Download, Free The. Get Instant Access to The Last Templar By Raymond Khoury # d EBOOK EPUB KINDLE PDF. Read Download Online The.

If you own the copyright to this book and it is wrongfully on our website, we offer a simple DMCA procedure to remove your content from our site. Start by pressing the button below! The ship vanishes without a trace. In present-day Manhattan, four masked horsemen dressed as Templar Knights emerge from Central Park and ride up the Fifth Avenue steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art during the black-tie opening of a Treasures of the Vatican exhibit. Storming through the crowds, the horsemen brutally attack anyone standing between them and their prize. Attending the gala, archaeologist Tess Chaykin watches in silent terror as the leader of the horsemen hones in on one piece in particular, a strange geared device.

At first it had seemed ludicrous. The knights were accused of being heretics, but how could they be heretics, they who had given so many lives in the defense of the Christian states? Their whole reason for existence was to defend the crusader state of Outremer in Palestine and they had fought and died for centuries in that cause, many of them choosing death in preference to life—even when they were caught by the Saracens and offered the chance to live in exchange for renouncing Christ, they chose death.

How could anyone have believed that they could be heretics? There was a rumor that even the common people found it hard to believe. For two centuries they had been taught that the Order was unsurpassed in its godliness, ever since Saint Bernard had given it his support 6 Michael Jecks during the crusades.

How could they have fallen so low? When the orders for the arrest and imprisonment of the knights were sent out, the king had been forced to explain why he was having to take this action. He obviously felt that otherwise his orders might not be carried out. After all, the accusations were so shocking as to be almost unbelievable. The king had given a written statement to each of the officers in charge of the arrests accusing the knights and their Order of inhuman and evil crimes, and ordering that their goods should all be taken and the knights and their servants arrested for questioning by the Inquisition.

By the end of that Friday, all the men in the temples were in chains, and the Dominican monks of the Inquisition began their questioning. Could they be guilty of such crimes?

Surely it was not possible? How could the most holy of all the Orders have become so amoral, so wicked? The people could hardly believe it. But disbelief transformed itself to horror when the confessions began to filter through.

After the unimaginable tortures inflicted on them by the Inquisition, after hundreds had suffered the agonies of weeks of unremitting pain and many had even died, the admissions began to seep out to the ears of the populace like ordure leaching from a moat to pollute a clean well, and like all such filth, the rumors contaminated all who were touched by them.

Their guilt was confirmed. But who could doubt that after seeing comrades lose feet and hands in the continual anguish of the torture chambers they would confess to anything to stop the pain and horror? The torture lasted for days and weeks on end, the pain ceaseless, in cells created inside their own The Last Templar 7 buildings because there were not enough prisons to hold so many.

They confessed to whatever the Dominicans put to them. They admitted renouncing Christ. They admitted worshipping the Devil. They admitted spitting on the cross, homosexuality, anything that could save them from the pain. But it was not enough, it only meant that the monks went on to the next series of questions. They had so many accusations to confirm that the torture continued for weeks on end.

Many individuals confessed to the unbelievable sins they had committed, but still it was not enough. It would only permit the king to punish individuals, and he wanted the whole Order to die. The torture continued. Gradually, slowly, under the continual, patient questioning of the Dominican monks, the admissions began to change and the statements started to implicate the Order itself.

The Knights were given satanic initiation rites, had been told to worship idols, had been forced to renounce Christ. Now, at last, Philip had his evidence: the entire Order was guilty and must be dissolved. So many had died, so many had been destroyed by the pain that was so much worse than anything their Saracen enemies had ever inflicted on them.

They had all joined taking the three vows: poverty, chastity and obedience, like any other order of monks. For they were monks; they were the warrior monks, dedicated to the protection of pilgrims in the Holy Land. But since the loss of Acre and the fall of the 8 Michael Jecks kingdom of Outremer in Palestine over twenty years before, people had forgotten that. They had forgotten the selfless dedication and sacrifice, the huge losses and the dangers that the knights had suffered in their struggles against the Saracen hordes.

Now they only remembered the stories of the guilt of the greatest Order of them all, the stories spread by an avaricious king who wanted their wealth for his own. So now this crowd was here to witness the filial humiliation, the last indignity. This was no time for tears. He was not here to bewail the loss of the Order, that could come later. They had discussed it at length when they had met three days before, when they had all heard for themselves that this public show was to be made.

All seven of them, the men from the different countries, the few who remained, the few who had not gone into the monasteries or joined one of the other orders, had been confused, sunk in despair at this Hell on earth. Had there truly been such crimes, such obscenities? If the Grand Master did confess, did it mean that all that they stood for was wrong?

Could the Order have been corrupted without their knowing? It seemed impossible, but it would be equally incredible that it was not true, because that would imply that the king and the pope were conniving at the destruction of the Order.

Was it The Last Templar 9 possible that the Order could be betrayed so badly by its two leading patrons? Their only hope was that there could be a retraction, an admission of error, and that the Order could be found innocent and fully reinstated to its position of honorable service to the pope.

The seven had discussed their options and they had all agreed with the tall German from Metz that they should send one of their number to witness the event and report back.

They could not rely on reports from others, they must have somebody there, someone who could listen to the statements and tell them what had been said, so that they could decide for themselves whether the accusations were true. The man by the cathedral wall had drawn the short straw.

But he was still mystified, unable to comprehend what was happening, and was not certain that he could give the affair the concentration it needed. He was distraught; it seemed so unbelievable, so impossible, that the Order he had served could have been so badly perverted. How could the dedicated group of knights that he had known, and remembered still, have been so warped, so debased? All of them had joined the Order because they could better serve God as soldiers than as monks.

Even if a Templar decided to leave the Order, it could only be to go to a stricter one, to the Benedictines, the Franciscans or another group of monks living in the same enforced poverty and hidden from the world. How could the Order have been so badly betrayed? He brushed aside another tear and walked listlessly through the crowds, his face set and glowering in his fear and worry.

He peered at the stalls of the market for some minutes without really taking in the wares, until he found that his aimless strolling had brought him 10 Michael Jecks back to the platform, and he turned to stand more squarely in front of it, standing as if challenging it to allow the charade to go ahead, challenging it to permit the Order to be destroyed.

It loomed like a gallows in front of him, a great wooden construction with fresh timbers that shone as the sun caught it. At one side a series of steps led up to the flooring above. As he gazed at it he suddenly shivered. He could feel the evil almost as a force—not the evil of his Order, it was the evil of this ugly stage upon which he and his friends would be denounced. Somehow he could feel now that it would be pointless even to hope. There could be no reconciliation, no resumption of past glories.

The sensation washed over him, as if before he had not truly been aware of the depths to which the Order had fallen, as if he had kept a small glimmer of hope alive through the last hard years that the Order could be saved but now, here, at last even this tiny flickering flame had died, and he could feel the despair like the pain of a sword wound in his belly.

The platform held his horrified attention. This was no place of confession, it was a place of execution; it was the place where his Order would die. All that he and the thousands of other knights had stood for would die at last—here, today. As the realization sank in, it seemed physically to hit him, making him suddenly shudder as if from a blow.

There was no protection, no defense against the implacable tide of accusations that would destroy them all. The Last Templar 11 But even as he realized it, even as he felt the finality of it, the certainty, he felt the hope struggling again within his breast, trying to break free of the shackles of despair that bound him so rigidly.

He was so engrossed in his own misery that he did not notice at first when the noise of the crowd changed. There was shouting, then jeers, from the mob as the convicted men were led forward, but it soon died down to a subdued murmuring, as if the people all around recognized the awesome implications of the occasion. The hush grew until the square was almost silent, the crowds standing and waiting for the men as they were led forward, the leading actors in this sad drama.

The men were not in full view of the witness yet, they had not arrived at the stage, but he could tell that they were coming by the way that the people in the crush in front of the platform started to jostle, pushing and shoving to get a clearer view. Meanwhile, more people came into the square and tried to force their way forward, attracted by the sudden quiet and increased movement. He found himself having to control his fury, smothering his anger that these common men and women should push against him, a knight, but soon the sight in front made him forget all about the people around him.

Over the heads of the crowds he could just make out the four figures as they were pushed and manhandled up the small gantry to the floor of the platform. Then, at a sudden almost tangible heightening of tension in the crowd, he stared, feeling a rush of optimism buoy his spirits. They were all wearing their robes! It was the first time in the long years since the thirteenth of October in thirteen hundred and seven that he had seen men wearing their Templar uniforms; could this mean that they were to be reinstated?

But then even that last dream was dashed, leaving him feeling empty and broken in his dejection. The quick lifting of his spirits fell away as soon as he peered over the heads of the people in front, and he had to struggle to control the cry that fought to break from his throat.

It was obvious that the four were only wearing their robes so that they could be identified more easily; as they were pushed to the front of the platform and made to stand there, gazing dully at the people all around, he could see the heavy manacles and chains that smothered them.

There would be no reprieve. He felt himself shrinking back, sinking behind the people in front as if he wanted to melt away, wiping at his eyes with the heel of his hand to prevent the hot tears from springing back with his anguish and desolation, bowing his head as if in prayer as he hid from the stares of the men on the platform, not wanting to catch their gaze in case he could be associated with them and thereby broken as they had been.

He did not want to see the despair in their eyes, the fear and the selfloathing. He could remember them—he wanted to remember them—as the strong men he had respected, as warriors; he did not want to remember them as they were now. For they were wrecks; they stood shaking in their fear and dread as they surveyed the crush of people that had come to witness their downfall. Gone was the glory of their past. Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master, stood a little in front, looking small and insignificant somehow in the great white robe which hung from The Last Templar 13 his shoulders formlessly, making him look as if he was wearing a shroud.

He was over seventy years old and his age showed as he stood, ashen-faced, bent and swaying under the weight of the chains, mutely watching the people in the square, looking both nervous and frail.

The man in the crowds stared at him, horrified by the difference. When he had last met de Molay, seven years before, he had been a strong and vibrant man, secure in his power and his authority as the leader of one of the strongest armies in Christendom, responsible to no man but the pope. He had spent months producing a report for the pope and was convinced that with another crusade it would be possible to take back the Holy Land. His report showed how it would be possible to reconquer it and then keep it permanently safe.

He had been confident of his ability to persuade the pontiff to begin planning for it and was already making his soldiers prepare, organizing and training them all, reinforcing the strict Rule of the Order and making them all comply with the original codes of conduct.

Now he was completely broken. He looked like a tired old man, shrunken and withered by the pain of seeing his Order ruined, by his inability to defend it, as if he could feel the failure of all that he had tried to achieve. In thirteen hundred and seven he had been the supreme ruler of the oldest and greatest military order, able to command thousands of knights and foot soldiers and answering to no lord or king, only the pope.

Now, stripped of his rank and his authority, he looked merely old and tired, as if he had seen too much and was ready for death. He had given up; there was nothing left for him to live for. In the crowds, the silent observer pulled the cowl of 14 Michael Jecks his hood over his head, blinking and frowning to stop the tears that threatened to streak the dirt on his face. Now he knew it was all over. If they could do that to Jacques de Molay, the Order was ended.

He retreated into the seclusion of his cloak as the depression took him over, blocking out all sound of the announcements and hiding from the final humiliation of his Order— and his life. Unaware, not heeding the ritual going on at the platform, he turned slowly and started to push his way through the crowds.

He had seen enough. He could bear no more. He just wanted to get away, to leave this scene of horror, as if he could leave his despair and sadness behind in this accursed square. It was difficult to move. The crowds were too thick, with people struggling to get in and move forward to see the men on the stage.

It was like pushing against the tide, and it took an age to go only a matter of yards. Shoving desperately, he tried to move around the people to escape, barging into men and women as they tried to hold him back until, at last, he found himself in front of a broad, swarthy man who would not move aside to let him pass but stood rooted to the spot and glared at him.

With a shock he suddenly realized that it was not weak and quaking, as he had expected, but powerful and strong, as if the Grand Master had found a hidden reserve of strength. Startled, he stopped and whirled back to the platform to listen.

I am guilty of the greatest deception, and that deception has failed the honor and the trust of my knights and my Order. I The Last Templar 15 have confessed to crimes that I know never happened—and all for myself. I confessed to save myself, from fear of torture. My crime is my weakness and it has led to the betrayal of my people.

I declare the crimes attributed to the Order to be false. I avow the honesty, the purity and the holy sanctity of the men of the Temple. I deny wholly the crimes ascribed to the Order. I will die for confirming the innocence of the men already dead, the men murdered by the inquisitors. But now at least I can die with honor, with. But soon the man in the crowd became aware, as if it was from a great distance, of an angry muttering all around him. This was not what the mob had expected; they had been told that the Templars were here to confess, to admit to the crimes they had been convicted of.

If this man denied them all, why had they been so brutally punished? A soldier pushed de Molay away and to the back of the dais and another Templar stepped forward, and to the obvious confusion of the soldiers and monks around him, stated his own denunciation, rejecting the accusations against the Order in proud and ringing tones.

The wicked rumors were false, he knew that now. So 16 Michael Jecks who could have levelled the accusations? Slowly his feelings gave way to anger, rough and raw, as he thought about the men who could have caused this, who had caused so much pain and anguish, and he squared his shoulders under his cloak with a new resolve.

The crowds were furious—they had been told that the Templars were evil, wicked men who had committed great sins against Christendom, and yet here were the two greatest Templars denying their guilt. These were the statements of men who would die for their evidence, they must be believed. But if what they said was true, then the crimes committed against them were of an unimaginable scale. The people pushed and shoved forward in their anger, shouting and swearing at the soldiers and monks who hurriedly pulled the four men from the stage and led them away, leaving the man on his own like a rock on the beach after the tide has ebbed.

He stood, eyes prickling with unshed tears, feeling the sadness and pain, but also pride and rage. He had no doubts now. No matter what would be said of the Order, he knew that the accusations were false. And if they were false, someone was responsible. His life had a new purpose: to find the men who had caused this injustice and have his revenge. The Order was innocent, there could be no doubting the conviction in those two voices. Slowly, he turned away and walked back to the inn where he had left his horse.

He had worked for the de Courtenays for many years now, as had his father before him, and he supposed that he should have expected a promotion—but he had not.

It had been completely unexpected, a sudden shock; if they had told him he was to be imprisoned for robbery, it could not have surprised him more. Naturally he hoped that his lords were satisfied with his work over the years, but he had never dreamed of being given his own castle to command, especially one so important as Lydford, and every now and again a quick smile cracked the serious expression on his face as his glee momentarily flared, quenching his nervous contemplation.

Peter, his father, had been the seneschal of their castle at Oakhampton for twenty years before his death two years ago, carefully looking after their es- 18 Michael Jecks tates and keeping the peace during the long, regular absences when the de Courtenay family went to visit their lands farther north. If his tenure was successful and the land was profitable, he could expect to become wealthy, a man of power and influence in his own right.

Of course, as the bailiff of the castle, he was also held responsible for any failures: for lower tax revenues, for reduced productivity from the demesne lands—for anything. Now, on his way home to his wife, he was gathering his thoughts, framing the best way of putting to her the possibilities and options that the role presented.

Being a realist, he not only felt pride at the recognition he had been offered; he was also aware of the awesome immensity of the job that he had been given. Ever since the Scots had defeated the English army at Bannockburn two years before, matters had got progressively worse, he knew. It was not just the continual attacks on the northern shires by the Scots or their invasion of Ireland, it sometimes appeared that God himself was angry with the whole of Europe and was punishing it.

For two years now the whole country had been blighted, suffering under the worst rainstorms ever known. Last year, thirteen hundred and fifteen, had not been so bad down here in the far west; his peo- The Last Templar 19 ple had hardly noticed any lack of essentials. Now, though, in the late autumn of thirteen sixteen, the rain had again been constant, and it had ruined the harvest for a second year.

In other counties the people had been reduced to eating their horses and dogs in the vain search for sustenance, although it was not quite so bad yet here in Devon. It did mean that there would be a lot to plan for, though, and in his new job as the bailiff of Lydford castle, Simon intended to do all he could to help the people he was responsible for.

Lost in his thoughts, he had a deep frown on his face as he rode. He was a tall and muscular man with a body honed from riding and hunting, in his prime at nearly thirty years old. His hair was thick and a uniform dark brown, with no gray or white hairs to mar the youthful looks that hid his age so well.

His complexion was ruddy from the days regularly spent in the open air and the saddle. From his sun- and wind-burned face his dark gray eyes looked out with a calm confidence. Looking up at the sky he could see it was already starting to darken as the sun slowly sank over to the 20 Michael Jecks west, and he threw a glance back at his servant, who plodded along behind on his old carthorse. His demeanor was that of a prisoner being taken to the gallows who had been asked about the weather—angry at the interruption of his thoughts and suspicious of the reasons for the comment.

Satisfied that the remark was made with no malicious intent, he grunted his assent as he lolled in his saddle. He had no desire to ride any farther tonight, and Bickleigh was known to have a good stock of wine and beer—it would be a fine place to rest as far as he was concerned. The bailiff smiled to himself.

Although Hugh had travelled a great deal with his master in the five years since he had taken up his position, he had never fully mastered riding.

His family were farmers near Drewsteignton where they kept a small herd of sheep, and until he started to work for Simon he had never ridden a horse. Even now, after a great deal of individual tuition, he still sat too loosely, radiating discomfort as he allowed the horse to plod along with him on its back.

Glaring aggressively at the ground, Hugh had taken some time to respond, and when he did at last answer The Last Templar 21 it was with a low and mumbling voice. Remembering, Simon grinned to himself as he turned back to face the road ahead.

It led along the River Exe here, meandering with the turbulent water at the edge of the forest, and he found himself watching the darkness between the trees on his right with wary interest.

Since the beginning of the rains the previous year, the shortage of food had led to a number of the poorer people taking up a life of robbery and thieving. He was not really very worried with this area, but he was all too aware of the problems. As always, when food became scarce the prices rose, and people who would normally have been law-abiding were forced to resort to rougher methods of obtaining what they needed.

Now that the crops had failed for a second year several bands of outlaws had grouped themselves together to be safer from the forces of the law. There had been no news of them coming this far south, but just in case he kept an eye open for an ambush.

He had not realized that he had been so on edge, and so it was with a small smile of rueful disgust that he should allow himself to be so worried about outlaws when there was no need to be, that he turned into the track that led to the little castle. The little keep was one of many built over the years to help defend the shire from the men of Cornwall, held by the de Courtenay family.

It was a small fortified building, a square stone tower, with a simple wall surrounding it for protection. Like so many castles built in its time, the entrance to the building was through a door on the first floor, reached by a small external staircase.

Bickleigh was used more now as a hunting lodge than a defensive post, and was visited only infrequently, once or twice each year, by Lord de Courtenay. It had its own bailiff who was responsible for tax collecting and the maintenance of the farms on the land all around, but beyond that it was a quiet place, nestling deep in the woods at the side of the hill over a mile from the main road to Tiverton.

It had originally been used as a small fort and had been permanently garrisoned against attack, but now it was left alone, a small rural backwater, ignored even by its lord in favor of other larger and more imposing castles with strategic importance—and better hunting. For Bickleigh was not important now. Oh, Simon knew it had been, back in the days after the invasion when it was essential for the Normans to have their outposts well positioned all over the country they had won.

Then it had been crucial as a staging post between Exeter and Tiverton, one of the hundreds built The Last Templar 23 by the invaders to pacify the population that was always ready to revolt against their new king—especially the Wessexmen of Devon. But now? Now it was superseded by the others. Simon rode up to the front of the old wall and dismounted at the gate, leading his horse through into the courtyard beyond. Warned by the loud clatter of the hoofs on the cobbled yard, a smiling groom arrived and took the bridle from him, pointing to the great oak doors at the top of the stairs that led inside to the living quarters.

Would you like some refreshment? Yes, some beer and food and a place to rest for the night, if I may. Do you mind? It always surprised Simon that a castle, one he had known to ring to the sounds of cooks, servants and guests, could seem so deserted when the lord was away.

It was almost as if the whole building was in hibernation, waiting for the master to return. As they walked, the sound of their booted steps seemed to ring throughout the tower as they trudged 24 Michael Jecks along the flagstones of the passage, until they came to the hall where John had been sitting before a roaring fire.

Soon servants arrived carrying cold meats and wine, which they placed on a table near Simon, and he sat and helped himself. Hugh arrived after a few minutes—he had been helping to see to the horses—and sat with his master to eat, losing his customary moroseness as he surveyed the array of food before setting to with gusto.

Later, after John had watched them eat their fill, he had them draw their seats up beside the fire and, leaning over, refilled their cups with wine. It was like a tall cavern, almost square at the base, and lighted by the fire and the candles, sitting in their brackets on the walls, that guttered in the draft that fed their flames, the tapestries that covered the windows giving no protection from the gales outside.

Simon would have been happier if the rushes had been replaced more often, but he knew that John held to the old view that it was better not to change them too regularly—that was the way to bring in infection. When he looked back at John, there was a slight concern in his eyes; his friend had aged since they last met. He was only ten years older than Simon himself, The Last Templar 25 but his body was skinny and seemed ancient, prematurely hunched under his tunic from lack of exercise and from too often sitting in the cold and reading by candlelight.

The thin face looked strangely pale and waxy from spending too much time indoors, and the lines on his forehead and either side of his mouth made deep grooves on his features, casting their own dark shadows in the firelight. When they had last met John had borne a head of thick graying hair, but now it was almost a pure white, as if he had been given a sudden shock.

Simon had not expected to see him so greatly changed in only seven months, and as he looked at his friend he suddenly realized how much pressure he would be under with his own new position at Lydford.

The only thing people were talking about in Taunton was the price of food. After a moment he rose with an apology. Simon raised his eyebrows in surprise and looked over at Hugh. At this time of night? It must be more than three hours after dark! After only a few minutes, John came back with a tall and strong-looking man, obviously a knight, wearing a heavy cloak over a mail hauberk that looked old and appeared to have seen several battles, from the scars 26 Michael Jecks and scratches that were visible.

As he came in he moved to the side of the knight so that he could see directly into the room, then followed along behind. The knight was tall, probably a little taller than Simon himself, and carried himself like a lord.

Broad and thickset under his mail, he stood proud and haughty, like a man who had fought successfully in several battles. Simon had to peer to see his face in the dark room; it was scarred on one side—not too deeply, merely as if he had been scratched by a knife, a normal mark for a warrior.

But that was not what Simon first noticed. No, it was the deep weals, the lines of pain that stood out, the furrows of anguish that travelled from underneath his eyes, past his mouth, to finish in the hair at his jawline.

They pointed to great suffering, as if he had known a level of pain so deep as to be almost unbearable, although he did not seem very old. Simon placed him at around thirty-five; his dark hair and the neat, almost black, beard an uncommon feature with modern knights that just followed the line of his jaw seemed to hint at no more than that.

It was a shock to see it, as if it was a blemish that should have been polished away long ago. You were travelling very late, sir. The knight bowed slightly and his mouth twitched in a half smile as Hugh sulkily moved farther up the bench away from the flames. He gratefully accepted a cup of wine from John and took a long, contented draft. Edgar glanced down and seated himself, staring around the room, his eyes occasionally lighting briefly 28 Michael Jecks on the other people present. The bailiff shrugged and looked over at the knight, who was happily accepting more wine from John.

He seemed to be close to laughing at himself ironically. I had a wish to see some of the old views, but it has been many years since I came along these roads and I forgot my way too often and. It took me a lot longer than I expected to find the right roads. So are you on your way to Furnshill now? I understand my brother died some time ago, so the manor becomes mine. I came as soon as I heard he was dead. I was going to continue tonight, but if I can get lost so easily during daylight, what hope is there that I can find my way in the dark?

No, if John could allow me. You must rest here the night. Sir Reynald had been known to be a kindly master, and Simon found himself hoping that his brother Baldwin would be too.

A cruel man in an important manor could be disruptive to an area. Oh, yes, thank you, John. There was an arrogance there, Simon noticed, the arrogance that came from experience, from battle and testing his prowess, but there was also a humility, a kindness, and an almost tangible yearning for peace and rest, as if he had travelled far and seen almost too much and only wanted to find somewhere where he could at last settle.

The young bailiff was intrigued. It seemed almost incredible that he could be so old, especially now, as he smiled in amusement with the firelight twinkling in his eyes. He seemed too vigorous somehow, too quick and sharp to be that age, and it was only with a mental effort that Simon managed to stop his jaw dropping. My brother was the elder, so he was the heir. I decided to go and seek my fortune elsewhere. I need to be able to ride the hills again and see the moors.

I intend to take a wife and begin a family. Yes, I have seen enough of war. I feel the need for rest and, as you say, peace. We will be passing close by Furnshill Manor on our way home. Simon found himself covertly watching the man and his servant. They seemed to move in accord with one another, a complete unit in themselves.

Simon found himself thinking how the two were perfect complements, and for an instant wondered whether he would ever be able to train Hugh to ride properly so that his own servant could behave in the same faultless manner. He threw a glance over his shoulder to where Hugh was sulkily jolting along behind, and with a sardonic grimace gave up on the thought.

Sir Baldwin rode into the lead shortly after they began the climb up the steep hill from Bickleigh and seemed surprised at the slow pace of Hugh. It seems so long ago, in a way. Simon looked at him. He seemed to be reflecting, his forehead puckered in thought as he studied the road ahead, until they came over the crest of a hill and could see the view. Pausing, they waited for Hugh.

From here, up on top of the rise, they could see far over to the south and west, all over the moors and forests of Devon, even as far as Dartmoor. In the mid-morning haze it seemed, at first, as if they were alone in the world as they sat in their saddles at the top of the hill and waited for Hugh to catch up with them.

Then the signs of life became evident. Some four miles away they could see smoke from a chimney rising between trees. Just beyond was a hamlet, nestling on the side of a hill above a series of fields that sprawled down into a valley. Farther on, the scene colored blue with the distance, were more houses and fields with, here and there, the inevitable columns of smoke to show where fires were alight for cooking.

Simon smiled as he looked over the area with a feeling of proprietorial pride at the sight of this, his county. Then, shaking himself out of his reverie, he swiftly turned and flashed a smile at the bailiff.

This road needs a The Last Templar 33 quick horse to let the memories flow. My friend, I will look forward to seeing you at the manor. As a friend and companion of the road I will be pleased to offer you some refreshment before you continue on your way home. Eyebrows raised, Simon watched them race down the hill until Hugh arrived at his side. His master nodded. Unfortunately, they had something else in mind.

They had more than enough Top Gun wannabes; what they needed were lawyers. The recruiters did their best to get him to join the Judge Advocate General Corps, and Reilly flirted with the idea for a while, but ultimately decided against it and went back to focus on passing the Indiana bar exam. It was a chance meeting in a secondhand bookstore that diverted his path again, this time for good. That was where he met a retired FBI agent who was only too happy to talk to him about the Bureau and encourage him to apply, which he did as soon as he passed the bar.

His mother wasn't too thrilled with the idea of his spending seven years in college to end up as what she called "a glorified cop," but Reilly knew it was right for him.

He was barely a year into his rookie stint in the Chicago office, logging some street duty on robbery and drug-trafficking squads, when on the twenty-sixth of February everything changed.

That was the day a bomb exploded in a parking lot underneath the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring over a thousand. The conspirators had actually planned to topple one of the towers onto the other while simultaneously releasing a cloud of cyanide gas. Only financial limitations had prevented them from achieving their objective; they simply ran out of money. They didn't have enough gas canisters for the bomb that, apart from being too meager to fulfill its nefarious purpose, was also placed alongside the wrong column, one that wasn't of critical structural importance.

The attack, although a failure, was nevertheless a serious wake-up call. It demonstrated that a small group of unsophisticated, low-level terrorists with very littie funding or resources could cause a huge amount of damage. Intelligence agencies scrambled to reallocate their resources to meet this new threat.

And so less than a year after joining the Bureau, Reilly found himself working out of the Bureau's New York City field office. The office had long had the reputation of being the worst place to work because of the high cost of living, the traffic problems, and the need to live quite a way out of the city if one wanted anything more spacious than a broom closet.

But given that the city had always generated more action than anywhere else in the country, it was the dream posting of most new, and naive, special agents. Reilly was such an agent when he'd been assigned to the city.

He wasn't new, or naive, anymore. As he looked around, Reilly knew the chaos surrounding him was going to monopolize his life for the foreseeable future. He made a mental note to call Father Bragg in the morning and let him know he wouldn't be able to make softball practice. He felt bad about that; he hated to disappoint the kids. If there was one thing he tried not to allow his work to trespass, it was those Sundays in the park. He'd probably be in the park diis Sunday, only it would be for other, less congenial reasons.

Chapter 5 A s he and Aparo stepped carefully over the scattered debris, Reilly's gaze took in the devastation inside the museum. Priceless relics lay strewn everywhere, most of them damaged beyond repair.

No yellow and black tape in here.

The whole building was a crime scene. The floor of the museum's Great Hall was an ugly still life of destruction: chips of marble, slivers of glass, smears of blood, all of it grist to the crime scene investigators' mill. Any of it was capable of providing a clue; then again, all of it could fail to offer a single damn thing. As he glanced briefly at the dozen or so white-suited CSIs who were working their way systematically through the debris and who, on this occasion, were joined by agents from the ERT—the FBI's Evidence Response Team—Reilly mentally checked off what they knew.

Four horsemen. Five dead bodies. Three cops, one guard, and one civilian. Another four cops and over a dozen civilians with bullet wounds, two of them critical.

A couple of dozen cut by flying glass, and twice that number bruised and banged about. And enough cases of shock to keep rotating teams of counselors busy for months. Across the lobby, Assistant Director in Charge Tom Jansson was talk- ing with the rail-thin captain of detectives from the Nineteenth Precinct.

They were arguing over jurisdiction, but it was a moot point. The Vatican connection and the distinct possibility that what had happened here involved terrorists meant that overall command of the investigation was promptly transferred from the NYPD to the FBI. The sweetener was that, years earlier, an understanding had been reached between the two organizations.

When any arrest was to take place, the NYPD would publicly take credit for the collar, regardless of who actually made it happen. The FBI would only get its share of the plaudits once the case went to court, ostensibly for helping secure the conviction. Still, egos often came in the way of sensible cooperation, which seemed to be the case tonight. Aparo called over a man Reilly didn't recognize, and introduced him as Detective Steve Buchinski. That's what we need right now," he said.

I'll borrow a few more shields from the CPP, that shouldn't be a problem," Buchinski promised. The precinct adjoining the Nineteenth was Central Park; horseback patrols were a daily feature of their work. Reilly wondered briefly if there might be a link and made a mental note to check on that later. Most of the offices above were being used as makeshift processing rooms. Reilly looked over and spotted Agent Amelia Gaines coming down the stairs from the gallery. Jansson had put the striking, ambitious redhead in charge of interviewing witnesses.

Which made sense, since everybody loved talking to Amelia Gaines. Following her was a blonde who was carrying a small replica of herself. Her daughter, Reilly guessed. The child looked like she was fast asleep.

Reilly looked again at the blonde's face. Usually, Amelia's alluring presence made other women pale into insignificance. Not this one. Even in her current state, something about her was simply mesmeric. Her eyes connected briefly with his before looking down to the clutter under her feet. Whoever she was, she was seriously shaken.

Reilly watched as she headed for die door, picking her way through the debris with unease. Another woman, older but with a vague physical resemblance, was close behind. Together, they walked out of the museum. Reilly turned, refocusing. Can't afford not to. The whole damn thing's on tape. Part of the museum's security system. Although, as the only cardinal-bishop present, Brugnone outranked the others, he deliberately avoided sitting at the head of the table.

He liked to maintain an air of democracy here, even though he knew that they would all defer to him. He knew it and accepted it, not with pride, but through pragmatism. Committees without leaders never achieved anything. This unfortunate situation, however, called for neither a leader nor a committee.

It was something Brugnone would have to deal with himself. That much was clear to him from the moment he had seen the news footage that had been broadcast around the world.

His eyes eventually settled on Cardinal Pasquale Rienzi. Although he was the youngest of them all and only a cardinal-deacon, Rienzi was Brugnone's closest confidante. Like the others seated at the table, Rienzi was speechlessly engrossed in the report before him. He looked up and caught Brugnone's eye. The young man, pale and earnest as always, promptly coughed gently. At the Metropolitan Museum. How foolishly otherworldly, Brugnone thought. Anything could happen in New York City.

Hadn't the destruction of the World Trade Center proved that? They don't yet know who is behind this. Lunatics inspired by their amoral television programs and sadistic video games," another answered. Red crosses on white mantles.

They were masquerading as Templars? There it is, Brugnone thought. That was what had set off his alarm bells. Why, indeed, were the perpetrators dressed as Knights Templar? Could it be simply a matter of the robbers seeking a disguise and fastening onto whatever happened to be available?

Or did the apparel of the four horsemen have a deeper, and possibly more disturbing, significance? The question had been asked by the oldest cardinal there. The old man was peering short-sightedly at the circulated document.

A multi-geared rotor encoder. Reference number VNS What is it? Again, he felt a shiver—the same shiver he felt the first time he spotted it on the list.

He kept his face impassive. Without raising his head, he flicked a quick glance around the table at the others. No one else was reacting. Why should they? It was far from common knowledge. Sliding the paper away, he leaned back in his chair. Make contact with the police and ask for us to be kept abreast of their investigation. Brugnone was pleased to see that this elder appeared to have forgotten about the machine.

People always had deferred to Mauro Brugnone. Probably, he knew, because the way he looked suggested a man of great physical strength. If it were not for his vestments, he knew that he looked like the burly, heavy-shouldered Calabrian farmer he would have been had the Church not called him more than half a century ago. His rough-hewn appearance, and the matching manner he had cultivated over the years, first disarmed others into thinking he was just a simple man of God.

That he was but, because of his standing in the Church, many proceeded to another assumption: that he was a manipulator and a schemer. He was not, but he'd never bothered to disabuse mem.

It sometimes paid to keep people guessing, even though in a way, that was in itself a form of manipulation. Ten minutes later, Rienzi did as he asked.

He made his way down a sheltered brick pathway, across the Belvedere courtyard and past the celebrated statue of Apollo, and into the buildings that housed part of the Vatican's enormous library, the Archivio Segreto Vaticano—the secret archive. The archive wasn't, in actual fact, particularly secret. A major part of it was officially opened to visiting scholars and researchers in who could, in theory at least, access its tightly controlled contents.

Among the notorious documents known to be stored in its forty miles of shelf space were the handwritten proceedings of Galileo's trial and a petition from King Henry VIII seeking an annulment to his first marriage. No outsiders, however, were ever allowed where Brugnone was headed. Without bothering to acknowledge any of the staff or scholars working in its dusty halls, he quietly made his way deeper into the vast, dark repository.

He headed down a narrow, circular stairwell and reached a small anteroom where a Swiss Guard stood by an immaculately carved oak door. A curt nod from the elderly cardinal was all that was needed for the guard to enter the combination into a keypad and unlock the door for him. The deadbolt snapped open, echoing up the hollowness of the limestone stairs.

Without any further acknowledgment, Brugnone slipped into the barrel-vaulted crypt, the door creaking shut behind him. Making sure he was alone in the cavernous chamber, his eyes adjusting to the dim lighting, he made his way to the records area. The crypt seemed to hum with silence. It was a curious effect that Brugnone had once found disconcerting until he had learned that, just beyond the limits of his hearing, there really was a hum, emanating from a highly sophisticated climate control system that maintained constant temperature and humidity.

He could feel his veins tighten in the controlled, dry air as he consulted a file cabinet. He really didn't like it down here, but this visit was unavoidable. His fingers trembled as they flicked through the rows of index cards. What Brugnone was looking for wasn't listed in any of the various known indexes and inventories of the archive's collections, not even in the Schedario Garampi, the monumental card file of almost a million cards listing virtually everything held in the archive up to the eighteenth century.

But Brugnone knew where to look. His mentor had seen to that, shortly before his death. His eyes fell on the card he was looking for, and he pulled it out of its drawer. With a deepening sense of foreboding, Brugnone trawled through the stacks of folios and books. Reams of tattered red ribbon, bound around official documents and thought to be the origin of the term "red tape," dangled in deathly silence from every shelf.

His fingers froze when he finally spotted the one he was looking for. With great discomfort, he lifted down a large and very old leather-bound volume, which he placed on a plain wood table. Sitting down, Brugnone flicked over the thick, richly illustrated pages, their crackling loud in the stillness.

Even in this controlled environment, the pages had suffered the ravages of time. The vellum pages were eroded, and iron in the ink had turned corrosive, creating tiny slashes, which had now replaced some of the artist's graceful strokes.

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Brugnone felt his pulse quicken. He knew he was near. As he turned the page, he felt his throat tighten as the information he was seeking appeared before him. He looked at the illustration.

It depicted a complex arrangement of interlocking gears and levers. Glancing at his copy of the e-mail, he nodded to himself. Brugnone felt a headache forming at die back of his eyes. He rubbed them, tJien stared again at die drawing before him. He was quietiy furious. By what delinquency had this been allowed to happen? He knew the device should never have left the Vatican and was immediately irritated with himself.

He rarely wasted time in stating or thinking the obvious, and it was a measure of his concern that he did so now. Concern was not the right word. This discovery had come as a deep shock. Anyone would be shocked, anyone who knew the significance of the ancient device. Fortunately, there were very few, even here in the Vatican, who did know die legendary purpose of diis particular machine. We brought it upon ourselves. It happened because we were too careful not to draw attention to it.

Suddenly drained, Brugnone pushed himself upright. Before he moved to return the book to its place on the shelf, he placed the file card that he had carried with him from die cabinet randomly inside it.

It would not do to have anyone else stumble across this. Brugnone sighed, feeling every one of his seventy years. He knew the threat wasn't from a curious academic or from some rutiilessly determined collector.

Whoever was behind this knew exacriy what he was looking for. And he had to be stopped before his ill-gotten gain could unveil its secrets.

Chapter 7 F our thousand miles away, another man had the exact opposite in mind. After closing and locking the door behind him, he picked up the intricate machine from where he had placed it on the top step. Then he moved slowly down into the cellar, his movements careful. The machine wasn't too heavy, but he was anxious not to drop it. Not now. Not after fate had interceded to bring it within reach, and certainly not after all that it had taken to seize it.

The underground chamber, although lit by the flickering glow of dozens of candles, was too spacious for the yellow light to reach into every recess.

It remained as gloomy as it was cold and damp. He no longer noticed. He had spent so long here that he had grown accustomed to it, never felt any discomfort. It was as close to being a home as anything could be. A distant memory. Another life. Placing the machine on a sagging wood table, he went over to a cor- ner of the cellar and rummaged through a pile of boxes and old cardboard files. He took the one he needed to the table, opened it, and gently withdrew a folder from it.

From the folder, he pulled out several sheets of thick paper that he arranged neatly beside the machine. Then he sat down and looked from the documents to the geared device and back again, relishing the moment. To himself, he murmured, "At last.

Picking up a pencil, he turned his full attention to the first of the documents. He looked at the first line of faded writing, then reached for the buttons on the top casing of the machine and began the next, crucial stage in his personal odyssey. An odyssey, the end result of which he knew would rock the world. Chapter 8 A fter finally succumbing to sleep barely five hours earlier, Tess was now awake again and eager to start work on something that had been bugging her ever since those few minutes at the Met, before Clive Edmondson had spoken to her and all hell had broken loose.

And she would get to it, just as soon as her mother and Kim were out of die house. Tess's mother Eileen had moved in with them at the two-story house on a quiet, tree-lined street in Mamaroneck soon after her archaeologist husband, Oliver Chaykin, had died three years ago. Even though she was the one who had suggested it, Tess hadn't been too sure of the arrangement.

But the house did have three bedrooms and reasonably ample space for all of them, which made things easier. Ultimately, it had worked out all right even if, as she sometimes guiltily recognized, the advantages seemed more skewed her way. Like Eileen babysitting when Tess wanted to be out evenings, driving Kim to school when she needed her to, and like right now, when taking Kim out on a doughnut run would help get the girl's mind off the previous night's events and probably do her a world of good.

Tess didn't look like she was in any rush to answer it. Eileen looked at her. Doug Merritt was a news anchor at a network affiliate in Los Angeles, and he was totally absorbed in his job. His one-track mind would have linked the raid on the Met with the fact that Tess spent a lot of time there and would definitely have contacts. Contacts that he might use to get an inside track on what had become the biggest news story of the year. The last thing she needed right now was for him to know that not only was she there, but that Kim was there with her.

Ammo he wouldn't hesitate to use against her at the first opportunity. Tess thought again about what her daughter had experienced last night, even from the relative shelter of the museum's restrooms, and how it would need to be addressed. The delay in the reaction, and die odds were there would be one, would give her time to better prepare how to deal with it. It wasn't something she was looking forward to. She hated herself for having dragged her tliere, even though blaming herself was far from reasonable.

She looked at Kim, grateful again for the fact that she was standing there before her in one piece. Kim grimaced at the attention. Would you quit it already. It's no biggie.

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I mean, you're the one who watches movies through your fingers. I'll see you later. Tess scowled at the device. The nerve of that creep. Six months ago, Doug had remarried. His new wife was a twenty-something, surgically enhanced junior executive at the network. This change in his status would lead, Tess knew, to his angling for a review of his visitation rights. Not that he missed, loved, or even particularly cared for Kim; it was simply a matter of ego and of malice.

The man was a spiteful prick, and Tess knew she'd have to keep fighting the occasional bursts of fatherly concern until his nubile young plaything got herself pregnant. Then, with a bit of luck, he'd lose the pettiness and leave them alone. Tess poured herself a cup of coffee, black, and headed for her study. She rang the hospital and was told he was not in a critical condition but would be there for a few more days. Poor Clive. She made a note of visiting hours.

Opening the catalog of the ill-fated exhibition, she leafed through it until she found a description of the device taken by the fourth horseman. It was called a multigeared rotor encoder. The description told her that it was a cryptographic device and was dated as sixteenth century. Old and interesting, perhaps, but not something that qualified as what one would normally term a "treasure" of the Vatican. By now, the computer had run through its usual booting up routine and she opened up a research database and keyed in "cryptography" and "cryptology.

Trawling through the hits, she eventually came across a site that covered the history of cryptography. Surfing through the site, she found a page that displayed some early encoding tools. The first one featured was the Wheatstone cipher device from the nineteenth century. It consisted of two concentric rings, an outer one with the twenty-six letters of the alphabet plus a blank, and an inner one having just the alphabet itself. Two hands, like those of a clock, were used to substitute letters from the outer ring for coded letters from the inner one.

The person receiving the coded message needed to have an identical device and had to know the setting of the two hands. A few years after the Wheatstone was in general use, the French came up with a cylindrical cryptograph, which had twenty discs with letters on their outer rims, all arranged on a central shaft, further complicating any attempts at deciphering a coded message.

Scrolling down, her eyes fell on a picture of a device that looked vaguely similar to the one she had seen at the museum. She read the caption underneath it and froze. It was described as "the Converter," an early rotor encoder, and had been used by the U.

Army in the s. For a second, it felt as if her heart had stopped. She just stared at the words. Rotor encoders were strictly a twentieth-century invention. Leaning back in her chair, Tess rubbed her forehead, scrolled back up to the first illustration on the screen, and then reread its description. Not the same by any means, but pretty damn close. And way more advanced than the single-wheel ciphers. If the U.

Still, this bothered Tess. Of all the glittering prizes he could have taken, the fourth horseman had zeroed in on this arcane device. Sure, people collected the weirdest things, but this was pretty extreme.

She wondered whether or not he might have made a mistake. No, she dismissed that thought—he had seemed very deliberate in his choice. Not only that, but he took nothing else. It was all he wanted. She thought about Amelia Gaines, the woman who looked more like someone out of a shampoo commercial than an agent of the FBI. Tess was pretty certain that the investigators wanted facts, not speculation, but even so, after a quick moment's thought, she went into her bedroom, found the evening bag she'd carried last night, and pulled out the card given to her by Gaines.

She placed the card on her desk and flashed back to the moment the fourth horseman had picked up the encoder. The way that he had picked it up, held it, and whispered something to it.

He had seemed almost. What was it he had said? Tess had been too distraught at the Met to make a big deal out of it, but all of a sudden it was all she could think of. She focused on that moment, pushing everything else out of her con- sciousness, reliving the scene with the horseman lifting the encoder.

And saying. Think, damn it. Like she had told Amelia Gaines, she was pretty sure the first word was Veritas. Veritas something. Veritas vos? Somehow, that seemed vaguely familiar. She trawled her memory for the words, but it was no use. The horseman's words had been cut off by the gunfire that erupted behind him.

Tess decided she would have to go with what she had. She turned to her computer and selected the most powerful metasearch engine from her links toolbar. She entered "Veritas vos" and got over twenty-two thousand hits. Not that it really mattered. The very first one was enough. There it was. Calling out to her. She stared at it. The truth will set you free.

Her masterful detective work had uncovered one of the most trite and overused sound bites of our time. He hated this part of town. He wasn't a big fan of gentrification. Far from it.

The Last Templar

On his own turf, the fact that he was the size of a small building kept him safe. Here, his size only made him stand out among the fancy piss-ants scurrying along the sidewalks in their designer outfits and two-hundred-dollar haircuts. Hunching his shoulders, he knocked a few inches off his height. Even then, big as he was, it didn't help much and neither did the long, black, shapeless coat he wore.

But he could do nothing about that; he needed the coat to conceal what he was carrying. He turned up Twenty-second Street, heading west. His destination was a block away from the Empire Diner, located in the center of a small row of art galleries.

As he walked past, he noted that most of the galleries had just one or maybe two pictures in dieir windows. Some of the pictures didn't even have frames for chrissakes, and none that he could see had a price tag. How were you supposed to know if it was any fucking good if you didn't know what it fucking cost? His destination was now two doors away.

To outward appearances, Lucien Boussard's place looked like a slick upmarket antiques gallery. In fact, it was that and a whole lot more. Fakes and pieces of dubious origin infected the few genuine, unsullied objects.

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Not that any of his neighbors suspected as much, for Lucien had the style, the accent, and the manners to fit in seamlessly. Very cautious now, eyes alert for anything or anyone that didn't look right, Gus walked past the gallery, counted off tvventy-five paces, then stopped and turned around. He made as if to cross the street, still couldn't see anything that seemed out of place, and went back and was inside the gallery, his movements quick and light for a man his size.

And why shouldn't they be? In thirty fights, he had never once been hit hard enough to go down. Except when he was supposed to. Inside the gallery, he kept one hand in his pocket, wrapped around the butt of a Beretta 92FS. It wasn't his handgun of choice, but he'd had a couple of misfires with the. He took a quick look around. No tourists, or any other customers for that matter. Just the gallery's owner. Gus didn't like many people, but, even if he had, he would not have liked Lucien Boussard.

He was a smarmy little shit. Narrow face and shoulders to match, he wore his long hair pulled back into a ponytail. Fucking French fag. As Gus came in, Lucien looked up from behind a small spindly legged table where he sat working and faked an elated smile, a feeble attempt to hide the fact that he had instantly started sweating and twitching.

That was possibly the one thing that Gus did like about Lucien. He was always on edge, as if he thought Gus might at any moment decide to harm him. The greasy little fuck was right about that. Turning his back to him, Gus set the lock on the door, then walked over to the table. Lucien shook his head rapidly from side to side. Maybe they all did that. He glanced back at the door to make sure they were out of any passerby's sight line and took something out of die bag.

It was wrapped in newspaper. He started to unwrap it, looking up at Lucien as he did. Lucien's mouth opened and his eyes suddenly flared wider as Gus finally brought out the object. It was an elaborate, jewel-encrusted gold cross, around a foot and a half long, breathtaking in its detail. Gus set it down onto the open newspaper. He heard die hiss as Lucien sucked in his breath.

He looked down again and, following his example, Gus looked and saw that the newspaper was open at a photo spread of the museum. One of a kind. Come on, Gus, I can't touch thus. And he couldn't exactly wait for a bidding war either.

For the past six months, Gus had had a seriously bad run at the track. He had been in the hole before, but never like this, and he had never before been in the hole to the people who were now holding his markers. Throughout pretty much all of his life, since the day he grew taller and heavier than his old man and had beaten die crap out of the drunken bully, people had been afraid of Gus.

But right now, for die first time since he was fourteen years old, he knew what it meant to be afraid. The men who held die markers for his gambling debts were in a different league from anyone else he had ever known.

They would kill him as readily and as easily as he would step on a roach. Ironically, the track had also provided him with a way out. It was how he'd met die guy who got him in on the museum job. And now here he was, even diough he'd been given clear instructions not to attempt to sell any of his hoard for at least six months.

The hell with tliat. He needed money and he needed it now. It's not possible at all. It's too hot to touch right now, it would be crazy to—" Gus seized Lucien around the throat and dragged him halfway across the table, which rocked precariously.

He thrust his face within an inch of Lucien's. Gus let go and the Frenchman dropped back into his seat. So it might as well be now.

Besides, you know there's people who'll download this because of what it is and where it came from. Sick fucks who'll pay a small fortune to be able to jerk off at the idea of having it locked up in their safe. All you have to do is find me one of them and find him fast. And don't even think of trying to dick me on the price.

You get ten percent, and ten percent of priceless is nothing to piss on, is it? His eyes darted around the room nervously, Ms mind clearly taking another tack now. He looked up at Gus and said, "Twenty. For something like this, it has to be twenty percent. Au moins. I will be taking a big risk on this. Instead, Gus calmly took out the Beretta and moved closer, jamming it into Lucien's crotch.

I've made you a generous offer and all you do is try and take advantage of the situation. I'm disappointed, man. With the guard. It was something. And I've still got the blade, you know, and, let me tell ya, I'm kinda getting into that whole Conan shit, you know what I'm saying? He knew that, if he had all the time in the world, Lucien's fear of him would work in his favor.

But he didn't have all the time in the world. The cross was worth a small fortune, maybe even seven figures, but right now he would take what he could get and be happy about it. The upfront cash he had made by signing on for the museum raid had bought him time; now he needed to get those leeches off his back. He was hooked. Lucien opened a drawer and pulled out a small digital camera. He looked up at Gus.

Gus needed die money and the freedom it would give him. He also needed to get out of town for a while until the dust settled around the museum job. All of these things he needed now. It's got to be quick. A couple of days, max. Probably trying to figure how he could work a deal with a downloader, a fat fee for promising to barter the seller down, even though the seller had already agreed. The slimy little shit. Gus decided that a few months from now, when the time was right, he would really enjoy paying Lucien another visit.

He then put the gun into another. Lucien was still shaking as he watched the big man walk all die way to the corner and disappear from sight. Chapter 10 "You know, I could've done without this right now," Jansson growled as Reilly dropped into a chair across from his boss. The complex of four government buildings in lower Manhattan was just a few blocks away from Ground Zero. It housed twenty-five thousand government employees, and was also home to the New York field office of the FBI.

Sitting there, Reilly was relieved to be away from the incessant noise in the main work area. In fact, the comparative tranquillity of his boss's private office was just about the only thing about Jans-son's job that was even remotely tempting.

All five areas of major concern to the Bureau—drugs and organized crime, violent crime and major offenders, financial crime, foreign counterintelligence, and, the latest black sheep of that odious herd, domestic terrorism—were firing on all cylinders. Jansson certainly seemed built for the task: the man had the impos- ing bulk of the former football player he was; although beneath his gray hair, his solid face had a detached, distant expression. This didn't throw the people working under him for long, as they quickly learned that one thing, beyond the proverbial death and taxes, was certain: if Jansson was on your side, you could count on him to bulldoze anything that came in your path.

If, however, you made the mistake of crossing him, leaving the country was definitely worth considering. With Jansson being so close to retirement, Reilly could understand why his boss didn't particularly appreciate having his last few months in office complicated by something as high profile as METRAID—the robbery's imaginative new case name.

The media had, quite rightly, pounced on the story. This wasn't a routine armed robbery. It was a fullblown raid. Automatic machine-gun fire had raked New York's A-list. The mayor's wife was taken hostage. A man was executed in plain sight; not just shot, but beheaded, and not in a walled courtyard in some Middle Eastern dictatorship, but here, in Manhattan, on Fifth Avenue. On live television.

Reilly looked from Jansson to the flag and the Bureau insignia on the wall behind him, then back again as the ADIC rested his elbows on his desk and sucked in a barrelful of air. Tell me where we are and where we're going with it. Those guys didn't leave much behind besides shell casings and the horses.

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