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Authors: Paul Christopher

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The Templar Cross

BOOK: The Templar Cross
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Table of Contents
Carefully fitted into custom-made Styrofoam slots was a row of five gold bars, each one approximately five inches long and two inches wide. Japrisot reached into the box and pried one of the bars out of its nest. It looked about half an inch thick. Holliday reached into the box and took another one out. It was heavy in his hands, almost unnaturally so, and it had an odd, greasy feel to it that was unaccountably repellant.
The bar was rudely made, the edges rounded and the surface slightly pitted. “1 KILO” was stamped into the upper quadrant, the letters
in the middle and an instantly recognizable impression in the lower end of the bar: the palm tree and swastika insignia of the German Afrika Korps of the Third Reich. There was no serial number or any other coding on the bar.
“Fifty kilos a box, ten boxes, five hundred kilos,” said Japrisot quietly.
“One thousand one hundred and three pounds,” murmured Rafi. “A little more than half a ton.”
“Dear God,” whispered Holliday, “what have we stumbled onto?”
Michelangelo’s Notebook
The Lucifer Gospel
Rembrandt’s Ghost
The Aztec Heresy
The Sword of the Templars
Published by New American Library, a division of
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto,
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
First published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, January 2010
eISBN : 978-1-101-15973-6
Copyright © Paul Christopher, 2010 All rights reserved
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.
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For John Christopherson,
the best family lawyer in
Skagit County, Washington
The United States Military Academy at West Point was deserted. There were no platoons practicing close order drill on the Plain, marching under the tarnished eternal eye of a bronze George Washington on horseback. There was no echoing sound of polished combat boots on asphalt in the Central Area as cadets did punishment duty. No barking orders echoing from stone walls. No drill sergeants calling cadence.
Graduation was over. Firsties transformed into newly minted soldiers were gone to their posts—plebes, cows and yuks all gone on summer training tours of one kind or another. No bands played, and the trees whispering secrets in the early-summer breeze was the only sound. The complex of old gray buildings was fading to a warm golden hue in the waning light of the sun. It was the last Sunday in June. Tomorrow was “R” Day.
Lieutenant Colonel John “Doc” Holliday walked across the broad, empty expanse of the Plain in his dress whites, feeling just a little bit tipsy. He was returning home from his farewell dinner at the West Point Club on the far side of the campus and he was relieved that there was no one around to see him in his present condition. Drunk history professors in tailcoats reeling around on the grounds of the nation’s premier military school didn’t go down well with civilian cadet moms and dads; definitely not good public relations.
Holliday stared blearily into the gathering darkness, the scarred eye socket under his black patch giving him phantom pain probably caused by one too many single malts. The gloomy breadth of the Plain was as empty as the rest of the Point. Tomorrow the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and friends of twelve hundred new cadet recruits would swarm over the big, neatly clipped field like ants with video cameras recording the doomed twelve hundred’s last hours of freedom before they were swallowed up by the U.S. Military machine.
Registration Day was like a circus and the end of the world combined. The new cadets, with their hairstyles still intact, had more than a few things in common with concentration camp inmates. They arrived, wide-eyed and terrified, in lines of buses and were shorn, poked, yelled at, given numbers and uniforms, then marched away into oblivion, like Hamelin’s children following the Pied Piper.
After five weeks in Beast Barracks getting Cadet Basic Training—which would winnow out a hundred or so who just couldn’t take it—and four grueling years that would winnow out a few hundred more, the same Pied Piper might eventually lead them onto the killing fields of Afghanistan or Iraq, or wherever else it was decided they should go by whoever happened to be occupying the White House that year.
Holliday had seen them come and seen them go and for years before that he’d seen them die in places the family and friends of the new cadets could never even imagine. The pomp and circumstance and hypotheticals of West Point would give way to blood and brains and severed limbs and all the other realities of armed conflict that never made it onto the evening news, let alone the pages of
The Howitzer
, the West Point yearbook. Proof of that, dating back to 1782 in the form of a soldier named Dominick Trant, lay in the old cemetery just along the way on Washington Road.
But that was over now. Ten months ago, following his uncle Henry’s death, had found Doc Holliday following the trail of a Crusader’s sword that led him and his cousin Peggy Blackstock halfway round the world and to a secret that had changed his life forever: a Templar treasure hoard that now lay securely hidden in an ancient castle in the south of France, the Chateau de Ravanche.
Now he was hostage to that treasure, bound as a steward to its awe- inspiring secret. For months he had wrestled with his obligations and finally realized that in good conscience he could no longer spend his time teaching history; it was time to live it. He had handed in his resignation to the superintendent and agreed to finish out the year. Now the year was done.
Holliday reached the edge of the Plain and turned down Washington Road. He went past Quarters 100, the old Federal-style house occupied by the superintendent, and headed onto Professor’s Row. His own house was the smallest on the treelined avenue, a two-bedroom Craftsman bungalow built in the 1920s, all oak paneling, stained glass, twenties furniture and polished hardwood floors. Married quarters, even though he’d been a widower for more than ten years now, but when he signed on at West Point after Kabul and the idiotic accident that had taken his eye, the little house had been the only accommodation suitable to his rank.
Holliday fumbled with his keys, managed to unlock the front door and let himself into the dark house. As usual, just for a second, some small part of his heart and mind imagined that Amy would be there and a second later he’d feel the soft sweep of sadness as he realized that she wasn’t. It had been a long time, almost ten years now, but some pain just didn’t go away no matter what the philosophers said.
He tossed the keys into the little dish on the sideboard that Peggy had made for him when she was twelve and headed down the hall to the kitchen. He switched on the gas beneath a pot of cowboy coffee he always kept on the stove, then went to the bedroom and stripped off his uniform. Even tipsy he made sure he hung it neatly in the closet beside his Ranger Class A’s and then slipped into jeans and a T-shirt. He went back to the kitchen, poured himself a mug of the bitter brew and carried it to the small living room, a book-lined rectangle with a short couch and a few comfortable old chairs arranged around a green-tiled Craftsman fireplace complete with the original Mother Oak keystone.
Outside it was fully dark now and Holliday felt a chill in the room. He laid the fire, lit it and dropped down into one of the armchairs, sipping his coffee and watching as the flames caught in the kindling and licked up into the larger logs. In ten minutes the fire was burning brightly and a circle of warmth was expanding into the room, the evening chill dissolving in the face of the cheerful blaze.
Holliday’s glance drifted up to the object hanging over the fireplace mantel on two pegs, glittering almost sensually in the dancing light: the Templar sword that he and Peggy had found in a secret compartment in Uncle Henry’s house in northwestern New York. The sword that had started it all, thirty-one inches of patterned Damascus steel, its hilt wrapped in gold wire, the wire coded with its remarkable message. A sword that had once belonged to a Crusader knight named Guillaume de Gisors seven hundred years in the past. A sword once possessed by both Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. Twin to the sword that Holliday had used to kill a man less than a year ago. The deadly weapon hanging above the fireplace was
, the Sword of the West.
Before he and Peggy had embarked on their long journey of discovery almost a year ago, Holliday’s attitude toward history had been absolute. Facts and dates and the timelines of events were literally written in stone as well as textbooks. Words like “unqualified,” “unassailable,” “irrevocable” and “immutable” were all part of his historical vocabulary.
BOOK: The Templar Cross
9.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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