Chapter 16: Half Truths
Daniel and Michael followed Ben to the room above his shop and were taken aback by how the old man lived. A small single bed sat beneath a grimy sash window, and on the wall, above the headboard of the bed, a bronze crucifix hung reflecting the emerging sun that was breaking through the rain-clouds. A lingering smell of damp and mould reached their noses as their entrance disrupted the stillness of the room.
They sat where they could while Ben reached for the kettle and put it on to boil. Then, changing his mind switched off the gas and reached for a bottle of scotch and three glasses. He poured them out and handed Daniel and Michael one each. Michael gratefully took a swig, but Daniel placed his on a small table beside the chair. Ben also drank his in one before lowering himself into an armchair that seemed to erupt with dust as he sat down.
‘The prophecy that I took back to Rome was a fake,’ Ben said finally.
‘How can it be fake when you were the one who found it?’ Daniel asked.
‘Because the true prophecy could never be put in our Churches hands. It was a dangerous document and I couldn’t allow it to fall into the wrong hands.’
‘Why, what was in it?’ Michael asked.
‘We have all heard of the Templar Knights.’
Both men nodded with smirks forming on their faces. The Knights were considered more fable than historical and to place their connection with the prophecy was amusing. Michael wondered if the Knights even realised that they would be blamed for everything to do with the Church. Ironic these men, who'd been commissioned by the Pope, were now in the modern world his enemy, holding fabled secrets and treasures.
‘Well, when they were hunted down and killed, a few scattered and formed other small groups. Some say that is where the Masons came from. Anyway, a man called Carlos Christopher was one of those who broke away, but he only passed his knowledge through his own family. He apparently held such a sacred position on earth that no other, but a Christopher could carry it on. He’d hidden himself amongst the Knights, but once they scattered, he had to disappear. Unknown to me, one of the family was with the dig when I found the manuscript. They swapped it and left me with the fake. I was not told until much later.’
‘Why would they do that?’ Michael asked.
A cloud slowly covered the sun, plunging the room into a murky darkness and Ben felt his insides start to shake violently. He desperately wanted to fill his glass up once more, at least to steady himself.
‘To protect the greatest bloodline that ever existed,’ he breathed heavily.
Both men looked at him for a moment, before bursting into laughter causing Ben to jump slightly at the sudden noise.
‘As in Jesus’ bloodline?’ Daniel laughed.
‘With all due respect, Ben, you don’t strike me as one that has current best-sellers in that shop of yours,’ Michael added.
Ben rubbed his head in frustration. He knew they would laugh at him and modern writers had made such legends laughing stocks to those in academic circles. Yet, if they looked hard enough, they would see. They would all see.
‘You cannot deny that there have been rumours within the Church of Jesus’ bloodline, especially since no doubt Joseph would have fathered children with his wife, Mary. Despite our ignorant belief that the woman was a pure virgin all her life.’
‘They are just rumours and to be fair these rumours have got a generation interested in Christianity again,’ Michael answered.
‘How can you be 100% sure? How many times have you covered over strange phenomena that you have found? Look, when I found that parchment, there was frenzy at the Vatican and a massive clampdown. Only a select few knew what was going on and when the children were born it were done in secrecy, especially since I was supposed to kill the girl-child.’
‘The first-born,’ Michael corrected.
This time Daniel sat up in his chair. ‘What do you mean kill? I thought you were just supposed to take them into the Pope’s care?’
Michael and Ben sighed deeply. ‘That's what people were told, but in reality it was different,’ Michael said. ‘It was ordered that the first born had to die as it would be the Anti-Christ.’
‘Michael, I said the girl. My orders were clear. We knew, even in those days the sex of the twins and I was to kill the girl,’ Ben sighed.
‘But why?’ Daniel asked.
Nervous sweat was now building on his back. Why had no-one shared this information with him. He was supposed to be heading this, yet he was just as in the dark as Cayne.
Ben looked him straight in the eye. ‘Because a girl being the possible messiah, whether she was born first or not, would contradict the whole dogma of the Church.’
Michael was already on his feet and pouring both him and Ben another whiskey and Ben could see by the bottle that his hands were shaking. Michael was not easily riled, and the fact he was made Ben nervous.
‘Are you saying that the twins are Jesus' ancestors?’ Michael asked, as he handed Ben a full glass.
‘Yes, just like John and Jesus were cousins and needed each other, the same is for both Cayne and Joshua. One can't really be without the other. But in these times it was and is better they're separated.’
With his heart beating painfully, Ben watched as the information filtered through the two men. He couldn’t even believe that he was telling them this much and they believed his lies too, especially as he had sat on most of it for most of his life. It was a trick learned through Henrick. Filter the truth with lies and fabricate a new truth. Designed to confuse any enemy. But these men were not enemies and that made the whole thing worse.
‘Which one is which? Surely you must know that?’ Michael asked.
‘I do, Joshua was born first and so is the messenger and Cayne is the Messiah.’
Gulping down his whiskey, Michael placed the glass down and took a moment to mull things over. Why did none of this sit right with him? Why did it feel like something was missing? It wasn't that he didn't really believe in the Jesus bloodline story, but he just found that conspiracy exhausting.
‘So neither of them are the devil?’ Daniel asked.
‘The devil does not care about what we do here boy,’ Ben answered.
‘I’ve one question,’ Michael started. ‘Okay, maybe two. If she is who you say she is, why didn't you want Daniel involved and why ask us to send her to Rome, knowing they may have her killed?’
‘Because that was part of the true prophecy. A man carrying a prophet’s name will walk into a holy city with blood on his hands. This will be after she tortures and tests him beyond his faith. As soon as the boy introduced himself I knew him to be the one and I was trying to save him from the ordeal.’
‘This is lies,’ Daniel hissed, rising from his seat.
‘She’s doing it now, boy. I can see it in your eyes. She will need a human to free her and she will make you love her so much that you will have no other choice, but to kill her to save yourself.’
Daniel, now on his feet grabbed at his coat and started to tug it on as Michael tried to calm him down. He could see Daniel's body shaking.
‘You know I would never hurt her,’ he pleaded with Michael, who nodded reassuringly.
‘How do you know you would never hurt her?’ Ben threw.
'Because what Daniel?' Ben pushed.
Daniel found the words sticking in his throat. There was no way he was going to explain himself to this mad heretic. Prophecy or no, the girl was going to Rome to be with her brother and they would both be in his care. He would never allow either of them to be killed. Never, he cared too much, and there it was. He had said it, maybe not out loud, but still he had said it. He cared for Cayne.