CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED-ONE
“How can I be of service?” Nelson asked.
“We need the Templar hoard,” Abi said.
“You… what?” Nelson asked. Shaking his head, he added, “What do you think that has to do with me?
“The object you call ‘Adam’s apple,’” Nyx said in her distinctive voice. “No one knows why you call it this. There was no Adam and he had no apple and…”
“Nyx,” Abi said.
“Makes me furious,” Nyx said.
“I know,” Abi said. “I understand. Please continue.”
Nyx was silent for a long moment.
“Nyx,” Abi said in low warning.
“Fine,” Nyx said. “The apple was taken. From me. By your ancestors — the filthy, disgusting, loathsome Templars. And now, because of other moronic humans, we need to find it.”
Nelson dropped into an empty armchair. He didn’t say anything for a long moment.
“You cannot find it,” Nyx said, softly, “without me.”
“Why?” Nelson asked.
“It belongs to me,” Nyx said, rage apparent in her voice. “It responds to me. You will need me to find it.”
“And me,” Aphrodite said.
“And me,” Hecate said.
“And me,” Abi said.
When Heather didn’t say anything, Nelson looked at him.
“I will go to protect you,” Heather said. “But only if you ask.”
“Please,” Nelson said.
“Then you agree?” Abi asked. “We will find the Templar hoard?”
“I know that it’s impertinent, but can I ask what did the ‘moronic human’ do?” Nelson asked.
No one said anything for a long moment. Nyx nodded.
“I will tell you something that you can never repeat,” Nyx said.
“That means that your life will be forfeited if you repeat what she says,” Abi said. “I will not allow you to agree. Nyx?”
“Mother,” Nyx said, giving an acquiescing nod. “Might I have your agreement that what I tell you is secret?”
“What if I need to tell another?” Nelson asked. “Like Blane or my father?”
The shadow that was Nyx fell silent.
“Yes, I understand now what the mother is saying,” Nyx said. “You may tell those you love or those you need. I will grant you this.”
“I need?” Nelson asked.
“I will allow you to bring one human,” Nyx said. “A warrior.”
“We will need a warrior,” Abi said with a nod.
“A human,” Hecate said. “To support Nelson and defend him.”
“Won’t you defend me?” Nelson’s voice rose with anxiety.
“There are things that we cannot defend a human from,” Heather said.
“We will do everything in our power, but there are areas we cannot help,” Abi said.
Nyx hissed a word that Nelson thought might be “Catholic.”
“We are not completely sure what we will face,” Abi finished her statement.
“You must pick a female,” Nyx said. “Human. Only a human can open this hoard. Only you with female support.”
“Why?” Nelson asked.
“We will share this when our group is formed,” Nyx said. “Committed. And we have agreement among all parties.”
“I need to think,” Nelson said. “I need to find my warrior. And…”
Nelson sighed and shook his head. He turned to Heather.
“In his current condition, will my father be able to help?” Nelson asked.
“I’m sorry, no,” Heather said.
“Can I access to his records?” Nelson asked. “Computer. Files. Books.”
“Of course,” Nyx said.
“Do any of you know where this mystical hoard is located?” Nelson asked.
“No,” Nyx said. “But we will find it. We have the ability to find it now. We are unable to do it.”
“Why not?” Nelson asked.
“When you are ready, we will be ready,” Nyx said. “Are you ready?”
Nelson didn’t say anything for a long moment. He shook his head.
“We will give you time to think,” Nyx said.
“Not much time,” Heather said.
“Every moment we linger, we risk destruction,” Nyx said.
“Destruction?” Nelson asked.
“Of the sun,” Hecate said at the same time Heather said, “Everything.”
“We are trying to say that we must act soon,” Abi said.
“The object that has polluted your father,” Heather said.
“We will explain everything when our group is formed and committed,” Nyx said.
Sighing, Nelson nodded. He looked around the room. When he looked back at Nyx, she reached out to touch him.
The next thing he knew, it was morning and he was late to work. He was in the shower before he remembered his weird visitation last night. He was walking out of the carriage house when he saw Heather standing at the end of the path.
“Did that really happen?” Nelson asked.
“What?” Heather asked.
“Quest for the Templar treasure,” Nelson said. He leaned toward her, “Nyx.”
“Yes,” Heather said. “We need to open the hoard.”
“How much time do we have?” Nelson asked.
“Time,” Heather shrugged. “Less than we want, more than we need.”
“That’s clear,” Nelson said.
“Nothing happens unless you agree to go,” Heather said. “So think fast. At the very least, your father’s life depends on it.”
Nelson gave Heather a nod and walked to the bus stop. When he turned to look for her, she was gone. Shaking his head, he got on the Colfax 15 and headed to work.
Monday midday – 12:11 p.m.
Denver Crime Lab
Nelson brought his lunch into his boss Ava O’Malley’s office where the rest of his co-workers were eating lunch. Bob Parrish partially stood up when Nelson came in. The elderly man grabbed another chair and stuck it under the table for Nelson. Coroner Dr. Joan Quincy shifted over to give Nelson some space. Leslie McClintock nodded to Nelson as he sat down. Fran DeKay, the designated “lab Mom,” smiled at Nelson and scooted the salt over in his direction. Ava was sitting at her desk when Nelson came into the room. She got up, grabbed her lunch, and joined the team at the table.
For the next few minutes, no one said anything while they dug into their lunches. Nelson unpacked his salad including two muffins. He set one in front of Dr. Quincy.
“Oat bran,” Nelson said. “Cinnamon. They’re your favorite.”
“Yes, they are,” Dr. Quincy said. “Thanks.”
“My pleasure,” Nelson said. “Blane made them for you to support your recovery.”
Dr. Quincy was fighting colon cancer.
“Send him my love,” Dr. Quincy said with a nod.
They fell silent again. Nelson cleared his throat.
“I’m in a… uh… situation,” Nelson said.
Everyone around the table looked up at him.
“Go on,” Fran said.
“I… well…” Nelson nodded. “You probably know, but maybe you don’t, and…”
“Spit it out, son,” Bob said. “We can handle it.”
Nelson looked at Bob before nodding.
“Okay,” Nelson said. “My father and mother were, well, are, but my mom’s dead, and…”
“Your parents were in the Templars,” Leslie said. “Or more accurately, your father is a Templar. We know all about it.”
“Oh,” Nelson said. “Why? How?”
“Seth told me,” Ava said. “He knows your father from Lockheed Martin. Your father told him. Seth told me. I told everyone when you missed work when your father was in the hospital.”
“The appearance of your father,” Fran said. “That’s what surprised me.”
“And me,” Dr. Quincy said. “I didn’t know that your father was living.”
“I didn’t either,” Leslie said.
“You know what surprised me?” Bob asked. “Carlos the Jackal. That’s what surprised me. I know that…”
Bob looked around the table. Fran gave him a shake of her head.
“Another time,” Bob said.
Nelson looked at Ava, and she nodded.
“We are nosey as fuck,” Ava said. “You know this about us.”
Nelson looked out the window of Ava’s office for a long moment before nodding.
“Okay,” Nelson said. “My father’s family were weapons’ masters. Blacksmiths, mostly. My father makes modern weapons. He trained me as a blacksmith. And…”
“My mother was born to the historical ruling group of the Templars,” Nelson said. “I… I… I didn’t know my mother or really any of this until the last year or so. My father kept me away from all of it. And…”
Nelson looked around the table before looking down at his salad.
“Here it is,” Nelson said, nodding to himself. “There is a legend that the Templars have a stash of gold, statues, fine art… riches.” He made circles with his hands. “Stuff. Stolen stuff — mostly from Muslim travelers, some gifts from wealthy patrons, some pilfering of from the Holy Roman See, that’s not to mention pillaging religious sites. I found out last night that some was stolen from actual mythological characters. Who knew?”
Nelson shook his head. He felt instantly tired and over burdened. Looking at his friends, he knew they expected him to continue. So he did.
“The loot was supposed to be set aside by Bernard of Clairvau. Himself. Bernard was said to have had his own private hoard of treasure which he hid for some future male heir. He was also said to be Bernard the pure, but he had a child. A girl. She and her carefully selected husband became the heads of the Templars.
“So here’s the thing — only a male heir of Bernard can get to the hoard. No one knows why this is. It is what it is. The Templars did not disappear and were not hung or destroyed. They continue to live their lives and run their stupid order in rural southern France. My father’s father was the weapons master as was his father and so on. My mother’s father and his father’s father, etc., ran the Templar organization. My parents were not to wed or even date. My father is not in a high enough position in the order to even know my mother. But they did and the result of that union was me.
“I am the first and only male heir of Bernard of Clairvaux,” Nelson said. “The Templars attempted to kill me, my father, and my mother for my parents betrayal of the order.”
“How did they betray the order?” Dr. Quincy asked.
“By marrying and having me,” Nelson said. “They say, or at least my lunatic aunt said, that no one knew that they’d had a child. They never would have endangered a child, particularly a male child, one who can restore the Templars to great wealth. That’s what they say, at least.”
“My father snuck me out of France and to Denver, where I grew up,” Nelson said. “I learned to make swords and lift weights and… My father made me the person I am today.”
Nelson nodded. Fran reached over to put her hand over Nelson’s in support.
“My father always said that we should leave the treasure alone,” Nelson said. “He said that a quest for this hoard of gold would likely end in my death. He said that money and treasure acquired through pain and death could only bring pain and death. So I don’t know anything, nothing, about this stupid fucking treasure.”
Nelson sighed and looked down.
“Why am I telling you all of this?” Nelson asked. “I find myself in a position of needing to find this hoard. It has something to do with the stuff at your house, Ava. There’s something there that’s dangerous to the entire world and everything on it. The only thing that can mitigate that danger is in the Templar hoard or believed to be in the hoard. It’s something called ‘Adam’s Apple.’ I know it to be a large ruby.”
“How can we help?” Ava asked.
“Anything,” Fran said.
“Think of us as your support system,” Leslie said. “Our help can ensure that you get in and out alive.”
“She’s right,” Bob said.
“You know that Leslie is right,” Dr. Quincy said. “We are of above intelligence. We figure out obscure puzzles every single day. I can’t speak for the others but I’ll help you.”
“I will too,” Ava said.
“For a percentage of the hoard?” Nelson asked.
Everyone at the table reacted by pushing back from the table. No one said anything for a moment.
“I personally do not want anything to do with that treasure,” Dr. Quincy said.
“Whatever we find, we should make every effort to give it back to those who owned it,” Ava said. “Or give to a museum in the area of those it was taken from.”
“I agree,” Nelson said with a nod. “Like you’ve done with the stuff from Poland.”
“Exactly,” Ava said.
“We’re on your team,” Leslie said. “With an emphasis on your.”
“If you have to do this thing, then we all have to do it,” Bob said with a nod.
Nelson’s eyes welled with tears. He leaned his head forward.
“It’s a terrible burden for you to have carried for all of this time,” Fran said.
“I can’t bring you with me,” Nelson said.
“We’ll be your team at home,” Ava said with a grin. “Your intelligence team. Your ‘mission central.’”
“Your Houston,” Leslie said with a grin.
Everyone around the table grinned and nodded.
“I’ve been told that I can bring one human female with me,” Nelson said. “A warrior. I wanted to ask you if you had any ideas. I was going to ask Mike, you know, Mike Roper, but he’s male and… M.J.’s male and…”
“Alex,” Ava said. “You should ask Alex Hargreaves.”
Nelson looked up at the team everyone was nodding.
“I know her brother but…” Nelson said.
“You will have to ask her,” Ava said. “She’s busy, really busy. They had to wait a year to get on her schedule for Poland.”
“But you think I should ask her?” Nelson asked. “I don’t really know her.”
“I do,” Ava said. “I can make the introductions.”
“You will?” Nelson asked.
“I will,” Ava said. “Especially if it gets whatever that thing it out of my house. See? I’m motivated.”
Nelson smiled at Ava. The team fell silent. After a moment, they started eating again. They moved on to talking about the case they were working on. When they’d finished eating, they left Ava’s office. When Nelson got to the door, Ava stopped him.
“I’ll call her right now,” Ava said.
Nelson turned to look at Ava. After a moment, Nelson nodded and got back to work.
Denver Cereal continues next week…
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