Quatrain by Medler, John - HTML preview
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January 20, 2013. 6:15 Paris time, 12:15 p.m. EST. Carcassonne, France.
Doug and Ray were relieved when they heard the Chief Justice had not been killed. They had been following the gay marriage case, Daltry v. Schwartzenegger, which was pending before the Supreme Court. If gay marriage was going to be upheld by the Court, they would definitely need Chief Justice Perkins’ vote. Ray actually knew someone who knew the Justice’s brother Seamus, who was gay. Ray and Doug could not fathom that a judge would vote against gay marriage when his own brother was gay. Morse, his two children, and their new friends returned to their seats for the last few minutes of the bus ride.
The bus bounced its way through the cobblestone streets and dropped them off in the middle of a busy marketplace. Doug and Ray got off the bus first. Ray looked around for a cab, but saw none. He turned back to make sure Morse and his children got off the bus safely. When Morse got off the bus, a man in jeans, a cowboy hat, and a gray and black striped shirt walked up to him with a fold-out map. His olive complexion gave Morse the impression that he was either Arabian or Italian, which for some reason, seemed out of place with the cowboy hat.
“Excuse me, sir, do you speak English?”
Morse replied, “Yes, I do.”
“I am trying to read this map here, and it’s all in French…”
As the man brought the map closer to Morse, he stealthily pulled out a revolver with a silencer and pointed it at Morse under the map.
In a low voice the man said to Morse, “Easy now, Professor. I have a gun pointed right at you. I need you to bring your children and come with me.”
Morse looked over the gunman’s shoulder at Ray, who had seen the whole scene go down. Ray’s football instincts kicked in when he saw the gunman. He powered his body directly at the man in the cowboy hat, pummeling him from behind into the side of the tour bus like an angry nose tackle. The man did not drop the gun as he fell, however. Ray grabbed the man’s wrist before he could use the gun. The gun went off, shooting a bullet into the side of the bus. Concerned tourists started yelling and fled from the bus stop. Ray and the gunman were locked in a battle over the gun.
“RUN!” yelled Ray.
John, Zach, and Zoey Morse bolted away from the bus stop, down the street, weaving in and out of tourists and patio umbrellas. Zach, the cross-country star, quickly took the lead. Zoey, using her skills from soccer, had no problem keeping up. Morse, on the other hand, was slow and trailed behind as the three dodged around parked cars, in and out of market stalls, and down the ancient streets of Carcassonne. They never turned back, afraid of what lay behind them. After about eight blocks, Morse was cramping up and breathing heavily. The teenagers were frustrated with their father, who was clearly out of shape. They worried that he was going to get them killed.
“Come on, Dad! They’re coming!” pleaded Zach.
“You run ahead and stay with Zoey. Leave me behind,” he gasped. “I will be fine, I just need to rest for a minute,” Morse panted.
“Dad, we are not leaving you.” Zach and Zoey looked around, while their father caught his breath. Zach saw a large doorway to a castle tower directly to his left. Just then, the dark man in the gray and black shirt, sans his cowboy hat, came around the corner at full speed about two blocks away.
“Quick! In here!” yelled Zach, ushering his dad and sister through the door. They bolted up the steps as fast as they could. After about six stories Morse was exhausted, sweating profusely and slowing down. Down below, he could hear the sound of the gunman. Morse had to push on. His kids were already at the top of the tower. He sprinted up the last two flights, coming out on top of an ancient castle wall.
He was momentarily distracted by the brisk breeze and panoramic sights. The view up here was breathtaking. Straight ahead running in one direction was a long gray stone pathway, with gray castle walls on either side at shoulder height, and cutouts along the top of the wall for long-dead archers.
A moment later, the terror of the moment returned, and Morse ran forward along the top of the castle wall, his children far ahead of him. As he approached a corner of the ramparts, a bullet whizzed by his right arm, exploding into dust in the wall to his right. In sheer panic, he ran as fast as he could along the wall. He made it to the heavy oak door of the next tower. Once inside, he noted that there were no steps heading down. He was inside a small stone chamber. He had to continue through the door on the opposite side. As soon as he burst out the door on the back side, he almost fell across some kind of brown leather and wood contraption. He saw Zach up ahead holding a rope.
“Quick, Pops! Come towards us and get out of the way!”
Morse stepped across a semi-circular lattice cup of wood and leather, attached to a long beam. In a flash, he could see what his son was planning. He scrambled over another ten feet. He helped his son turn a large lever. Just then, the gunman in the gray shirt and jeans came barreling out the door and fell into the wooden cup.
“See ya!” yelled Zach. With that he and his father turned the lever, and the catapult which Zach had set up near the door flung their assailant and his weapon heavenward. The three watched as the gunman hit the wall, and then flew off the edge of the wall, hurtling towards the cobblestones below, where he landed violently.
“Great thinking, Zach!”
“They had this thing up here on the wall, so I figured it was worth a shot.”
“I can’t believe that worked,” smiled Morse.
Down far below, the dark-skinned man in the gray Armani suit and aviator sunglasses suit saw his partner fly off the castle wall and land in a bloody splatter on the gray stones of the marketplace. The man in the suit was not happy. Those Americans would pay for this. He saw them run across the castle walls, and when they went through the door of a tower on the end of the walls, he judged where they would come out below. He would be waiting for them.
Fortunately, however, Zoey’s sharp eyes spotted the man in the suit below. The three concocted a plan to avoid him. After running into the end tower, they would duck down below the castle walls where they could not be seen, and crouching, retrace their steps back the way they came. The three went as fast as they could in crouched position back across the ramparts. When they came down to the bottom of the stairs, Morse looked around the corner of the wall and saw no one suspicious. In the distance, they could hear sirens. Obviously, the police had made it to the scene, either in response to the gunshot or the dead man. The nearest cab would be out the front gate, but that was the obvious way out. The man in the gray suit would probably be waiting for them there. Morse decided to cut back across the village to the Basilica of St. Nazaire and wait it out there for a while.
They walked up the steps into the grand entrance on the north side of the church through the tall columns decorated with leaves, flowers, and demons. The basilica inside was dark and tall. The extended Romanesque vault was set on rows of towering columns, which alternated between circular and square. At the end of the great hall was a gigantic circular window of stained glass. Along the walls were smaller works of stained glass showing the lives of Jesus, St. Paul, and St. Celse. They quickly made their way down the great hall of the Basilica, looking for a good place to hide. As they got near the front, they happened to pass on their left the empty fourteenth century tomb of St. Pierre de Rochefort, the former Bishop of Carcassonne from 1300 to 1322, who was responsible for nearly all the Gothic work of the Basilica. The tomb was behind a tall, slender wall. On the wall were three figures carved into the stone. The middle figure was clearly the bishop, wearing his bishop’s miter and staff. On either side were carvings of a deacon. A pointed triangle, like the roof of a house, was carved above each figure, and above the triangles was another circular window of stained glass.
This was clearly the “black bishop,” Morse was sure of it. When he was on the bus, Morse had predicted that there might be tiles on the floor in front of the bishop set out in the form of a chessboard. Then all he would have to do is find the square on the board corresponding to the bishop’s best move, and the clue would be behind that tile on the floor. But when Morse saw the real tomb of the bishop, he was disappointed. There were not tiles set forth like a chessboard. There were some bricks in the wall, but there was nothing that one would readily identify as looking like a chessboard. In any event, there was no place to hide here. They moved across the church and looked over on the right side, where there were more stone engravings, this time for the Tomb of Bishop Radulphe. Again, there was nothing resembling a chessboard. And once again, there was no place to hide.
Just then, a man came running down the main aisle of the Basilica towards them. As he got closer, they could see it was Doug. He had his Nikon camera strapped across his shoulder.
“There you are. I am so glad I found you. Listen, Ray was shot in the arm. He is in an ambulance right now on his way to the hospital. He told me to protect you, but guys, I am just paralyzed with fear right now about Ray. That is all I can think about. I know what Ray said, but I really feel like my place is with him in the hospital. I hope you understand.”
“Of course we do,” said Morse. “Go with Ray, and please thank him. He saved our lives.”
“Thank you so much for understanding.” Doug sprinted back down the aisle of the Basilica towards the entrance. As he got near the entrance, he almost collided with the man in the gray suit.
“Excuse me, sir,” said the dark-skinned man in the sunglasses, grabbing Doug’s arm. “I am looking for my friend and his two teenagers, a boy and a girl. He looks like this, except he is bald.” He handed Doug a photograph. Doug was scared to death.
“Um, yes, as a matter of fact, I did see them about five minutes ago in the Cathedral of St. Michel, over there. They were acting strange, and then I saw them hide behind the pipe organ. I guess they were playing some kind of game or something, I don’t know.”
“Thank you, you have been most helpful.”
The man in the glasses and gray suit turned and ran out of the church.
In the meantime, John Morse and his children were at the front of the church, and, from behind a statute of St. Celse, saw Doug talking to the gunman. He would find them in no time. They would have to hide. Looking around frantically, Zach Morse saw the church’s confessional, and alerted his father. The three bolted over to the confessional, pulled aside the purple velvet curtain, and went inside into the blackness. They never saw Doug direct the gunman to a different cathedral.
In a traditional Catholic confessional, the priest would slide open a small wooden slot about one foot square, revealing a mesh screen. The penitent would then confess his sins to the priest through the screen. Fortunately for the Morses, no priest was on duty in the confessional today, so no one knew they were in the dark room. They were quite cramped in the small box. They shifted positions a few times quietly to remain comfortable. Something was stabbing into Morse’s back. He wanted to get a look at it so he could figure out how the three of them could contort their bodies to fit in the confessional without cramping up. He pulled out his pen light and turned it on. A small wooden statue of Bishop Rochefort was attached to the wall inside the confessional. It was the statue which had been pressing into Morse’s back. He rearranged his position so that the statue was not pressing into his spinal column. He turned off his light.
“Daddy, it is really dark in here, I’m scared,” said Zoey.
Morse agreed it was dark.
Dark. Like the dark squares on a chessboard.
The bishop in the dark. The dark bishop!
Morse reached his fingers through the mesh screen and slid open the wooden window normally opened by the priest. In the darkness, he could make out the screen separating priest and penitent. The screen.
Wait a minute. What had Ray said about the chess move? The dark bishop was screening the queen from calling check. By moving the bishop out of the way, there was a discovered check. The dark bishop’s screen. Morse looked at the wire mesh of the confessional and the bishop’s statue on the wall. That was it!
Morse turned on his pen light again.
“Here, Zach, hold this,” he whispered.
“Dad, you have to turn that light out, you are going to get us killed,” whispered Zach.
“I will be quiet, I promise.”
Morse took out his Swiss Army knife, pulled out the tiny slotted screwdriver and began undoing the screws on the four corners of the mesh screen. When he finished, he pulled on the screen. It still did not budge. It must be glued as well, Morse thought. He pushed back the screwdriver into the knife and pulled out the biggest blade. With his fingers, he gently cut away the glue on the side of the wood holding in the screen to the wall separating the priest’s part of the confessional from that of the penitent. After about five minutes he had most of the glue cut away. He put his fingers into the mesh and yanked again and this time the screen, surrounded by a frame of wood on all sides, came out. He shined his penlight into the rectangular hole made from the missing screen. The wall panel separating the two parts of the confessional was made out of painted brown wood, and was about eight inches thick. When the screen was removed, however, Morse could tell that the panel was actually hollow on the bottom part of the panel. He shined the penlight downward toward the separating board into the hollow space between the wood. There was definitely something there. He reached his fingers in gingerly and pulled out a long cylindrical, rusted metal pipe, with a cap on the end. He twisted open the cap on the top. There were scrolls inside!
Meanwhile, the man in the dark suit had scurried over to the Cathedral of St. Michel, based upon the erroneous directions given to him by Doug. After fifteen minutes of searching, the man in the suit knew he had been duped. He sprinted back to the Basilica, in the hopes that his prey would still be there. When he dashed into the great hall of the Basilica, he checked every pew. They were nowhere to be found. He checked the left side and the right and could not find them anywhere. He figured they must have already left. Just as he was about to leave, he looked at the old confessional to the right of the altar. The confessional had been equipped with a small purple light over the top of the priest’s door and a small green light over the penitent’s section of the confessional. The light was electronically rigged to the priest’s seat and the penitent’s kneeler. In this way, anyone seeking confession could know immediately whether a priest was present and available for taking confession, and whether the stall for the penitent was already taken. He noticed something odd. The green light for the penitent’s box was lit but the priest’s purple light was not. That made no sense. Why would someone go into a confessional if no priest was there? Unless they were hiding. As he got closer, he noticed a small flicker of light under the penitent’s curtain. They were definitely in there. He walked over to the curtain with his gun and silencer drawn.
He yanked open the curtain and was immediately hit with a metal pole to the face, slammed into his eye like a jousting sword. He fell back in pain, holding his eye, and losing the gun. Zach quickly kicked the gun across the floor, but the gunman grabbed his ankle, knocking him down. Zach tried to kick the man in the gray suit back with his free leg, but the man was fast, and soon had Zach in a headlock on the floor. Morse ran up to the assailant with his pipe again, hoping to free his son, but the man in the suit pulled out a stiletto from his pocket and put the blade to Zach’s neck.
“Not another move, Professor, or I slit his throat right here.”
Morse froze. The gunman stood up, holding Zach by the neck with his threatening blade, and moved backwards across the floor until he was within reach of his gun. Then he picked up the gun from the floor and released Zach, who moved back with his father and sister. The gunman pointed the gun at them.
“Put down the pipe.” Morse did as he was instructed.
“Now, you are going to begin by telling me everything you know about the prophecy.”
“What prophecy?” asked Morse.
“Come now, Professor, we are not stupid. We know you came to France to obtain an ancient prophecy. I know that you have parts of the prophecy already. I want to know what you know.”
“I assume you are referring to the prophecy of Nostradamus,” said the Professor. “We were able to retrieve some of his work from Salon and more from Agen. But I assure you, this has only academic interest. If you have read any of Nostradamus’ other works, I am sure you will agree that he was not much of a prophet. His prophecies are vague and indecipherable, and could mean almost anything. It is certainly not worth killing someone over.”
“Professor, one thing you do not want to do to a man who has a gun aimed at your head is to lie to him. You know as well as I do that the Missing 58 quatrains are the true prophesies. How many of them have you found?”
Morse considered a moment.
“Give them to me now.”
Morse paused, and then reached in his bag, pulling out the scroll with the twelve pages of the Bible containing the first twelve prophecies.
“Where are the rest of them?”
“I do not have them.”
“Where are they?” The gunman put his revolver to
Morse’s head. “TELL ME!”
“I do not know,” Morse stammered. “All I know is that they are somewhere in Carcassonne, and they have something to do with a bishop.”
“And how do you know that?”
Morse reached in his bag and pulled out the scroll with the verse about the flying pig. He explained the story and then showed him the reference to the chessboard.
“And that is all you have?”
“Yes, I swear!”
“Very well, then, Professor, we will carry on the quest without you.”
He aimed the gun at them.
“Wait! Why kill us? What is the point? These prophecies dealt with events in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. What could possibly be so important about them that you would need to kill an old man and two teenagers over? Your Qur’an teaches non-violence. Why go against the teachings of your holiest book?”
The gunman seemed very agitated.
“Do not lecture me about my religion, Professor Morse. Certain events are in motion right now that will change the course of history. You do not know of them now, but if you continue on this foolish quest for the prophecies, you will find them. And the man planning this course is not about to let that happen. Goodbye, Professor.” The gunman leveled his gun again.
Just then, a man behind the gunman impaled him violently in the back of the head with a long, metal candelabrum, driving the middle post of the candelabra into the back of the gunman’s skull. He fell forward, lifeless. Standing over the body, filled with adrenaline and shaking in fear, was their friend Doug from the bus.
“Oh my God, I cannot believe I just did that!” he said.
“Doug! Thank you so much!” cried the Professor. “You saved our lives again!”
The group looked down at the gunman. Blood was pouring from his head wound onto the stone floor of the Basilica. Morse took out a handkerchief, and wiped down the candelabra so that no one would find Doug’s prints on it. They were careful not to step in the blood. Morse picked up the pipe from the floor and threw it in his bag and zipped it up.
“Why did you come back?” asked Morse.
“Well, I was half way to the front gate when I stopped. I figured my misdirection was probably going to hold him off for only about ten minutes, and Ray made me promise I would look after you. I cannot believe I did that.” He stood motionless, staring at the dead body.
“Come on,” said Morse. “We have to get going. We do not want to be at the scene when the police find this.” They ran down the aisle to the front of the church and then walked calmly out the exit. It did not appear that anyone had seen them inside the church. They made their way through the crowds to the front gate of Carcassonne, and then walked down to one of the streets below, where there was a line of cabs. Doug was headed to the hospital to help Ray. Doug and Morse exchanged business cards.
“I cannot tell you how much you and Ray have done to help our family. We will forever be in your debt. Whatever you need at any time, you call me, and it’s yours.”
“Thanks, John. We will give you a call when we get back to the States.”
Doug hugged the teenagers and Morse and got into his cab.
Morse took another cab with his children off to the Carcassonne Airport. During the cab ride, Morse unscrewed the cap on the metal pipe taken from the church.
Zach whispered to his father. “Dad, put that thing away, this treasure hunt has almost gotten us killed four times.”
“Well, we won’t be able to take a metal pipe on an airplane. It is a weapon. So we might as well get rid of the pipe now and take what is inside.” Morse pulled out the scrolls that lie within and then set the pipe on the floorboards of the cab. He looked over at his son with a forlorn look. Zach knew his father could not resist looking what was inside.
“Oh, all right, go ahead. But you promised us, no matter what, we are going home.”
Morse unrolled the first set of scrolls. Like the last time, pages of a Bible had been pasted onto the scroll, with prophetic quatrains written in India ink over the type. There were 37 additional quatrains in all. Morse looked at the first quatrain.
Il écrit d’amants et de rois,
De fantômes et de monsters,
De faunes et de fées dans les bois,
Les pièces sont écrites par le Chantre.
He writes of lovers and of kings,
Of ghosts and monsters,
Of fauns and fairies in the woods,
The plays are written by the Bard.
The thirteenth quatrain obviously was referring to Shakespeare, who lived long after Nostradamus was alive. Morse scanned the remaining quatrains. He would have to translate the rest when they had more time. He rolled the scroll back up, and put it in his bag.
The second scroll contained another “confession” of Nostradamus.
La Deuxième Confession de Michel de Nostradamus:
Moi, Michel de Nostradame, avoue solennellement avoir commis de la fraude. J’ai fait semblant d’être docteur en médecine quand, à vrai dire, j’ai été renvoyé de la Faculté de Médecine et je n’ai aucune formation en médecine. A Lyon j’ai donné une ordonnance sans valeur à une femme, et je lui ai facturé dix couronnes. Quand elle a protesté que l’ordonnance ne valait rien, et qu’elle n’allait pas mieux, j’ai refusé de lui rendre l’argent. J’ai essayé de guérir la goutte en brûlant un trou dans la poitrine de mon patient en me servant d’in bouton ardent. Puis je l’ai couvert de jus de rose , de beurre et d’une perle d’argent et de cuivre. Il n’y a aucune justification pour ce traitement qui non seulement ne guérit point la patiente mais aussi lui cause une douleur insoutenable. Ma pillule de rose, que j’ai prétendu pouvoir guérir la Peste, est aussi frauduleuse. J’ai manqué de payer mes dettes. Quand Jean de Morel m’a prêté l’argent pour payer l’addition à mon hôtel à Paris, je ne lui ai pas rendu l’argent, et quand il m’a écrit six ans plus tard pour demander son argent , j’ai fait semblant de ne pas le connaître. J’ai déclaré que j’étais astrologue, capable de lire des diagrammes astrologiques de naisssances, mais ces interprétations sont pleines d’erreurs, car je ne sais pas du tout calculer avec justesse le mouvement des corps célestes à travers le ciel. Finalement, mes prophéties d’événements futurs sont des inventions pures et simples et sont rédigéesd’une telle manière qu’elles peuvent dire n’importe quoi ou rien du tout. Ce grand péché de la Fraude, je l’avoue.
Michel de Nostradame
Translated into English, it read:
The Second Confession of Michel de Nostradame:
I, Michel de Nostradame, do solemnly confess that I have committed fraud. I have held myself out to be a medical doctor, when in fact I was expelled from medical school and have no medical training whatsoever. In Lyon, I gave a woman a worthless prescription, and charged her ten crowns. When she protested that the prescription was worthless, and she no better, I refused to give her the money back. I have attempted to cure gout by burning a hole in my patient’s chest with a flaming hot knob, which I then covered with rose juice, butter, and a bead made of silver and copper. There is absolutely no medical justification for such a treatment, which not only fails to cure the patient, but causes the patient excruciating pain. My rose pill, which I claimed cured the Plague, is also a fraud. I have failed to repay my debts. When Jean de Morel lent me money to pay my hotel bill in Paris, I never paid him back, and when he wrote me six years later asking for his money, I pretended not to know him. I have held myself out as an astrologer able to give readings of astrological birth charts, yet my readings are replete with errors, as I haven’t the foggiest idea how to correctly calculate the movements of the heavenly bodies across the sky. Finally, my prophecies of future events are complete fabrications, and are worded in such a way as to mean anything or nothing at all. For this great sin of Fraud, I confess.
Michel de Nostradame
Morse rolled the scroll back up and placed it inside his bag. Then he opened up the third scroll.