The Priory of Sion – a European secret society founded in 1099 – is a real organization. In 1975 Paris’s Bibliotheque Nationale discovered parchments known as Les Dossiers Secrets, identifying numerous members of the Priory of Sion, including Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Leonardo da Vinci.
The Vatican prelature known as Opus Dei is a deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brainwashing, coercion, and a dangerous practice known as “corporal mortification.” Opus Dei has just completed construction of a $47 million World Headquarters at 243 Lexington Avenue in New York City.
All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.
Louvre Museum, Paris 10:46 P. M.
Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy six year old man heaved the masterpiece toward himself until it tore from the wall and Sauniere collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.
As he had anticipated, a thundering iron gate fell nearby, barricading the entrance to the suite. The parquet floor shook. Far off, an alarm began to ring.
The curator lay a moment, gasping for breath, taking stock. I am still alive. He crawled out from under the canvas and scanned the cavernous space for someplace to hide.
A voice spoke, chillingly close. “Do not move.”
On his hands and knees, the curator froze, turning his head slowly.
Only fifteen feet away, outside the sealed gate, the mountainous silhouette of his attacker stared through the iron bars. He was broad and tall, with ghost pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils. The albino drew a pistol from his coat and aimed the barrel
through the bars, directly at the curator. “You should not have run.” His accent was not easy to place. “Now tell me where it is.”
“I told you already,” the curator stammered, kneeling defenseless on the floor of the gallery. “I have no idea what you are talking about!”
“You are lying.” The man stared at him, perfectly immobile except for the glint in his ghostly eyes. “You and your brethren possess something that is not yours.”
The curator felt a surge of adrenaline. How could he possibly know this?
“Tonight the rightful guardians will be restored. Tell me where it is hidden, and you will live.” The man leveled his gun at the curator’s head. “Is it a secret you will die for?”
Sauniere could not breathe.
The man tilted his head, peering down the barrel of his gun.
Sauniere held up his hands in defense. “Wait,” he said slowly. “I will tell you what you need to know.” The curator spoke his next words carefully. The lie he told was one he had rehearsed many times. . . each time praying he would never have to use it.
When the curator had finished speaking, his assailant smiled smugly. “Yes. This is exactly what the others told me.”
Sauniere recoiled. The others?
“I found them, too,” the huge man taunted. “All three of them. They confirmed what you have just said.”
It cannot be! The curator’s true identity, along with the identities of his three senechaux, was almost as sacred as the ancient secret they protected. Sauniere now realized his senechaux, following strict procedure, had told the same lie before their own deaths. It was part of the protocol.
The attacker aimed his gun again.