Valley of the templars t.., p.1

Valley of the Templars ts-7, page 1

 part  #7 of  Templar Series Series

 

Valley of the Templars ts-7
 


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Valley of the Templars ts-7


  Valley of the Templars

  ( Templar Series - 7 )

  Paul Christopher

  FromNew York Timesbestselling author Paul Christopher comes an international thriller delving into a Templar threat right at America’s doorstep.

  Retired Army Ranger John Holliday and his friend Eddie travel to Cuba in search of Eddie’s mysteriously vanished brother—and find themselves desperately trying to stop a shocking plot of a secret Templar cabal that has been growing for five hundred years. As the conspiracy tightens the corrupt and dying Castro regime in an iron grip, Holliday must find Eddie’s brother before it is too late…and the secret horror of what lies in the Valley of Death is revealed.

  JUNGLE WARFARE

  There was a harsh swishing sound as a sapling bent back on itself, whipped back into place, and six sharpened bamboo stakes, each eighteen inches long, impaled both Domingo and Laframboise where they stood. Holliday saw that the sapling was weighted at the end by a small, curved rectangular object that he recognized instantly: it was an MMI “MiniMore,” a smaller version of the much larger Claymore fragmentation mine.

  “Hit the dirt!”

  Holliday dropped, the gentle pinging as the second trip line pulling the ring on the mine tinkling melodically before the main charge exploded and its load of shrapnel exploded in a twenty-foot arc at roughly waist level. It sounded like a small sharp thunderclap followed by an acrid cloud of smoke and then something like the pitter-patter of hail as the projectiles within the mine hit the jungle. Then there was silence….

  Also by Paul Christopher

  Michelangelo’s Notebook

  The Lucifer Gospel

  Rembrandt’s Ghost

  The Aztec Heresy

  The Sword of the Templars

  The Templar Cross

  The Templar Throne

  The Templar Conspiracy

  The Templar Legion

  Red Templar

  VALLEY

  OF THE

  TEMPLARS

  PAUL CHRISTOPHER

  A SIGNET BOOK

  PART ONE

  COUNTDOWN

  1

  Room 212, Hart Senate Building,

  Washington, D.C.

  Committee Investigating the use of Paramilitary Corporations, Private Armies and Private Police Forces both within and without the Continental United States, Senator Fulton J. Abernathy, Dem., Wisconsin Chairman

  February 20, 2012

  Room 212 in the Hart Senate Building was a multimillion-dollar chamber for interrogation people from Enron executives to possible appointees to high positions in government. There was a single massive wall of marble behind the senators’ dais, which stretched around three walls of exotic wood paneling with cutouts for press boxes like some political baseball game; a single long table faced the senators on the carpeted floor and room for two hundred or so spectators behind. There was plenty of room for press photographers to kneel or squat beneath the senators’ dais and a large UNITED STATES SENATE seal on the marble wall with a convenient swing door beneath it to allow for a television camera to get reaction shots.

  The two men and their several lawyers being spitted that particular day were Major General Atwood Swann, president of Blackhawk Special Forces Corporation, and his second in command, Colonel Paul Axeworthy. Swann was dressed in the uniform of a U.S. Marine major general, his chest resplendent with medals from Vietnam and both Iraq wars, as well as Afghanistan. Swann was a big man, square-faced, his marine buzz cut going from blond to gray. Axeworthy was wearing Blackhawk Battle Dress Uniform, or BDUs, consisting of green-on-green camouflage blouse and trousers tucked into spit-shined combat boots, a bright blue scarf at his throat and a dark green beret bearing the black bird on a gold background that was the Blackhawk logo. The beret was tucked into the left epaulette of his blouse. He wore an identical gold-and-black patch on both shoulders. The two men’s five lawyers were dressed like lawyers.

  Senator Fulton J. Abernathy, the committee chair, wore a dusty suit twenty years out of date, a psychedelic tie that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Sgt. Pepper’s album cover and a face like a wrinkled apple. His eyes were bright blue and extremely alert behind a pair of bright green half-framed bifocals. The grilling had already been going on for two hours, but Abernathy was still in top form and Swann hadn’t flinched once.

  AB: What is your annual salary at Blackhawk, General Swann?

  SW: I was informed that there would be no questions regarding personal matters.

  AB: Well, I’m telling you otherwise and I’m the boss here, so answer the question.

  SW: One million seven hundred and eighty-five thousand plus bonuses.

  AB: What kind of bonuses?

  SW: Bonuses for successful missions.

  AB: Such as?

  SW: Katrina for one.

  AB: Katrina as in the hurricane?

  SW: Yes.

  AB: What, pray, was your mission there?

  SW: We were hired as an adjunct to local forces to maintain order.

  AB: What about your mission in El Salvador?

  SW: I’m not sure I understand the question.

  AB: Were you or were you not hired by the government of El Salvador to “relocate” several villages and their occupants in the interior for the purposes of a major gold mining corporation owned by the same person who controls the multinational corporation known as the Pallas Group, which in turn owns both Blackhawk Security as well as Blackhawk Special Forces—one Kate Sinclair, mother of the late Senator William Pierce Sinclair who recently took his own life?

  SW: That’s a complicated question, Senator.

  AB: I’ll try to pay attention when you answer it. El Salvador, in particular the village of San Diego de Tripicano and the village of Cuscatleon, which according to my information simply do not exist anymore. In fact, the only thing left of both places is a scattering of burnt-out ruins and a few charred bones. How did you manage that little trick, General, and what kind of bonus were you paid for slaughtering two hundred and thirty people, men, women and children?

  SW: I’m afraid the El Salvador mission is a matter of national security, Senator.

  AB: El Salvador’s national security? Ask me if I give a tinker’s fart about El Salvador’s national security.

  Pause.

  SW: My counsel advises me to plead the Fifth Amendment.

  AB. I’ll just bet they do. One more question before we break for lunch, General Swann. Have you ever been hired by any U.S. government agency to invade the territory of a sovereign nation?

  SW: My counsel advises me—

  AB: We get the picture…General. Let’s break for lunch.

  Four miles off Cayo Largo, Cuba

  Phase of the Moon: New

  April 21, 2012

  It was midnight and it was raining. The four ancient, rusting fishing trawlers puttered slowly northwest along the coast offshore from the long archipelago of cays and islands that stretched along Cuba’s Caribbean shoreline. Most were uninhabited strips of sand and coral occupied by a few windblown palms, though a few had been turned into sportfishing resorts to entice tourists. But it was the end of the season and even the resorts were almost empty. If anyone was listening that night, they would have assumed that the engine sound came from the rock lobster and shrimp fleet that plied the banks of the Bahia del Pedro farther south and were now heading for one of the main fishing terminals like Matanzas or Cienfuegos.

  At ten past twelve the engine of one of the four old boats in the group sputtered and died and the three others stopped their own engines to see what they could do to help. Some wit in the head office had decided to name one of the boats Bahia and another Cochinos—Bay of
Pigs—but under the rust and the filth and the piles of empty nets hanging over the derrick and the mast, it was unlikely that anyone was going to notice on a dark rainy night four miles out to sea. Even if Cuban radar was in good enough repair to be working that night, the four boats were wooden and so low in the water they would likely have been invisible.

  As soon as the engines stopped, the crews of all four boats surged into action. Instead of shrimp and lobster the trawlers carried ten five-by-six bags, each containing a seven-meter inflatable Zodiac boat, and another set of bags contained their silenced electric motors, hardly neccessary tonight because the tide was rushing strong inshore. Each of the trawlers also carried thirty men, all fully equipped with weapons bags and LAR V Draegar bubble-free rebreathing apparatus, suitable for the shallow depths and warm waters inshore and with a ninety-minute useful breathing time. Within twenty minutes the boats and all one hundred and twenty men had been off-loaded and were heading toward a GPS point between two uninhabited cays sixteen miles northeast of Cayo Largo. The four trawlers continued their journey, their course slowly changing to a more northeasterly one and their staging point on the southern tip of Little Cayman Island.

  Ninety minutes later, their Zodiacs sunk in seventy feet of water, the four-hundred-and-eight-man unit landed on a rocky abandoned beach twenty miles west of the town of Trinidad. They stripped off their rebreathing gear and stowed it in the waterproof knapsacks where their camo gear had been kept. The weapons bags were unsealed, each man armed himself according to his role in the mission and at three fifteen in the morning the company-handpicked men from the Blackhawk Special Forces elite Special Boat Unit moved off the beach in double time, and within another hour they had vanished into the deep jungles covering the slopes of the Escambray Hills. They were the third such unit to be landed successfully on the empty beaches of Spiritus Sancti Province, and there were three more to come over the next six weeks. Operation Cuba Libre was in full swing.

  2

  Holliday’s stay at Ramstein Air Force Base lasted much longer than he’d wanted, and both Christmas and New Year’s had come and gone before he was released along with Eddie. The Cuban had been keeping in erratic touch with his aging mother and father, but there was still no news of the vanished Domingo, Eddie’s older brother, or at least no news her mother or father wanted to share with the listeners at the Signals Intelligence Base just south of Havana.

  In early spring, Holliday’s still-healing wound and battered brain pan leaving him unable to drive and Eddie never having been behind the wheel of a car in his life, the two friends took the high-speed ICE train from Mannheim to Amsterdam, then checked into the Hotel Roemer on the Visscherstraat. The snowbanks were melting, the canals were thawing and the first leaves were appearing.

  “I have to see a guy about something,” Holliday said cryptically when they had settled in. “I’ll be back in an hour. Order something from room service.”

  “I think I will sleep instead,” said Eddie. “I will dream of the beaches near my home in Alamar.”

  “Alamar?”

  “Fidel’s great gift to the people of Havana.”

  “What is it?”

  “A slum, built with Russian concrete.” The Cuban smiled. “But very close to the sea.”

  Holliday left the hotel and made his way to Nieuwmarkt on the edge of De Wallen, Amsterdam’s red-light district. The place he was looking for was squeezed in between a sex shop and a bierhaus. A green neon sign in the blacked-out front window read DARBY’S AMERICAN BAR, EST. JUNE 16, 1969—the day its owner, Danny Farrell, finished his second and final tour in Vietnam, Holliday knew. After seeing the way things were upon landing in San Francisco, Farrell slipped into civvies in the toilets, caught the next plane home to New York and then kept right on going, opening the bar in Amsterdam that had always been his dream in-country.

  Holliday stepped in and let his eyes adjust to the dim light. The bar was on the right, a row of vinyl-covered booths on the left. A big TV was mounted on the wall behind the bar, playing CNN with the sound turned off. Holliday sat down at the bar and checked the grimy plastic-coated menu. Burgers, fries, BLTs, Denver sandwiches and Reubens on dark rye. All the foods that Farrell had talked endlessly about in the hooch.

  The bartender made his way down the bar to where Holliday was sitting. He was thin, no more than five-six, bald, with oversized ears a huge, broad nose, and wearing wire-rimmed glasses. He was dressed in a wrinkled white shirt with sleeves rolled up, blue jeans and a barman’s short apron. There was a fading tattoo of a skull backed by a parachute and a sword on his right forearm. Holliday would have recognized him anywhere, mostly because of the lumpy, jagged scar that ran from just under his right ear to his chin. It was lumpy and jagged because Holliday only had the needle and thread he used to darn his socks with him when the piece of shrapnel from the tin plate mine opened up Farrell’s face. It wasn’t easy to do a great job of battlefield surgery on the slope of a hill with the enemy popping mortar shells your way and screaming “Yanqui, you die!” over their bullhorns.

  “Help you?” Farrell said, his voice bored.

  “BLT, easy on the mayo, and a double Maker’s Mark if you wouldn’t mind, Beagle.”

  Farrell called out something unintelligible in Dutch toward a closed door at the far end of the bar, then turned slowly back to Holliday, a suspicious look in his eyes. “What did you call me?”

  “Beagle, just like everyone else.”

  The man involuntarily reached up with one finger and touched an ear. “Am I supposed to know you or something?”

  “November 1967, Hill eight eighty-two, Dak To. I was the one who sewed that up,” said Holliday, pointing at the scar. “You called me Frankenstein after that.”

  “Doc Holliday! I’ll be screwed, blued and tattooed! It’s been, what, thirty-five years or something?” The ex-Ranger grinned from one big ear to the other, turning the scar into a curling snake slithering across his face.

  “Closer to forty-five.”

  “You’re not still in, are you?”

  “I was for a long time.”

  “You look like you took a few hits of your own.”

  “Here and there.”

  “So, what you been up to lately?”

  “Wandering around the world, getting into trouble.”

  A Chinese cook appeared with the BLT, dropped it in front of Holliday and retreated. Farrell made a generous double of Maker’s Mark and set it down on the bar. “What kind of trouble?”

  Holliday took a bite of the sandwich, which was delicious, and sipped his drink. “The kind of trouble that might require some new documents.”

  “What kind of documents?”

  “Passports, drivers’ licenses, birth certificates, the works.”

  “You been getting into serious trouble, then, Doc.” Farrell shook his head. “Not the Doc I knew.”

  “Not the Doc I knew, either,” said Holliday. “Don’t worry, though, Beagle. I’m still on the side of truth, justice and the American way.”

  “Well, that’s okay, then, Doc.” Farrell smiled. “None of us are the way we were back then. All of us are missing parts of one kind or another.”

  “Can you help me out?”

  “I think I got a name and an address somewhere, but this guy is bad news, Doc. He does good work, but he’d slit your throat for a dollar if he could get away with it.”

  “Nice friends you have.”

  “Nice friends don’t forge passports.”

  “True enough.”

  Holliday stayed and finished his sandwich and whiskey, talking about old times with his scarred buddy from a lifetime ago, but old times weren’t necessarily good times and he left with both of them promising to stay in touch and both of them knowing they were lying.

  Holliday called the number Farrell had given him, and he and Eddie arrived at the appointed address shortly after eight o’clock the following evening. Kostum King was located between a Christian bookstore and a Bra
un café on Raadhuisstraat between the Herrengracht and the Singel canals in the center of Old Amsterdam. It was a narrow building with a tattered blue awning and four dusty-looking Michael Jackson Thriller costumes complete with shoes and rubber masks dangling in the window from what looked suspiciously like meat hooks. The sign on the door said CLOSED, but Holliday rang the bell anyway.

  The man who answered was short, scraggly-haired, clubfooted and with a large hump on his back. The suit he wore was as dusty as the Michael Jackson costumes.

  “Ja?”

  “Dirk Hartog?”

  “Ja.”

  “Darby sent us.”

  “Ah yes, come in.”

  They stepped into the shop, bypassing the hunchback, who closed and locked the door behind him. The shop was long and narrow with costumes of all kinds hanging in gloomy rows. None of them looked as though they’d been rented in years, and the most modern U.S. president mask they appeared to have was Richard Nixon. There was even a Jane Fonda mask and a set of long-haired Beatles masks lined up on a shelf. The hunchback led them to a door at the back of the room and opened it, ushering them inside. It was an office, crammed with filing cabinets and a large wooden desk with a vinyl-covered office chair. There were two other chairs for guests and a coffee machine on top of one of the filing cabinets. The only picture on the walls was a framed Rembrandt cigar ad from a magazine. To the right of the hanging picture was another door, probably leading into some sort of storeroom. The hunchback sat down at the desk, slipped out of the hunchback jacket and the scraggly-haired wig and slipped off the clubfoot shoe.

  “Much better,” sighed the man happily. “Now, what can I do for you gentlemen?”

  “Identity papers.”

  “Ja. Any particular type?”

  “Passports, driver’s license, birth certificate.”

 
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