Jackson Forbes blew steam off his coffee and stared at the black Lexus parked outside the Tip Top Café in New Sparta, Missouri. “Why would you drive a car like that into New Sparta? Shish, folks around here notice when I flush a toilet at two in the morning; by Friday the rumor mill has me with prostrate cancer.” Jackson Forbes looked the part of his forty years of hard labor and work ethic growing up and in the U.S. Army; and now chasing art fraud around the world.
“It’s what I drive, besides people in town will figure I’m selling life insurance, and that’s kinda why I’m here.” Dwayne Musgrove ran a finger around the collar of his starched white shirt and then pushed a folder across the table to Jackson. “It’s very simple, just get the monks to allow you below the chapel grab the papers and be gone.”
Jackson tipped back on the vinyl covered café seat and scratched his chin. He had worked with Musgrove for several years before retiring. The man was six-foot rotund pressure cooker ready to explode. “First of all, I’m not Catholic; secondly, why are you picking on me? Finally, how’d you find me here? I’ve been hiding away from the company for the last two years, minding my own business, writing content for a couple dozen rich guys wanting their names on books. Half the time I’m doing more research than the people who contract me with the outlines and notes.”
A waitress approached the table. “You guys doin’ okay? Gotta fresh pot right here.”
“Yeah, warm me up Dolly.” Jackson held up his cup. He watched as a stream of black liquid filled his cup.
“Hot stuff.” Dolly winked at Jackson. She pointed the pot at Musgrove. Dolly’s flowered blouse stretched across her ample bust-line. Her dyed red short cropped hair and square body made Jackson think she might have been a fire hydrant if she weren’t so animated.
“I’m fine,” added Musgrove. He put his hand over the cup.
“That’s some car out there.” Dolly pointed with the coffee pot. “Is that a rental?”
Musgrove laughed. “It’s a lease. I work for a big insurance company in Kansas City. We drive those to meet with clients.”
Dolly chomped on her gum. “Thought so, only salesmen drive fancy cars in New Sparta, bet yer sell’n ol Jackson here some life insurance right?”
“That’s correct, at least something like that,” said Musgrove. “I’ve been trying for ten minutes now. He’s a tough one.”
“I got me some insurance, bought off TV, my boyfriend said I needed the General because of my little accident. I backed my pickup into a manure truck, and kinda caused a smelly pile in the street.”
“Order up,” a shout from the kitchen brought a halt to Dolly’s discussion.
“Comin’.” Dolly shouted back. “Jackson, buy a lot of life insurance and I’ll marry ya.” She made her finger into the shape of a gun. “Pow, rich widow.” Dolly laughed and walked to the kitchen window.
Jackson shook his head, “I should have warned you.”
“That’s okay,” Musgrove grinned and looked into the empty coffee cup. “Jackson, you’re the best archive property tracer and recovery man we have. Just because you decided to retire super early, uh.” He paused. His reddish round face showed strain. “You know the area, and the people.” Musgrove leaned in and lowered his voice. “Besides, you might be interested, there’s indications of some rumblings from the illuminati in Italy; you’ve dealt with them before.” He tapped his mouth with a napkin. “Oh, you were easy to find, you cash your interest checks.”
Jackson knew the man across the table was lying. His checks were direct deposit. He elected not to press the issue. “I swear Dwayne, you’re bringing me out of retirement to deal with religious zealots from Italy and worst of all they believe they are still in the fourteenth century. Why would they be interested in these old papers?” Jackson opened the folder and looked at the documentation. “Shish, confessions of DeMolay?” Jackson laughed. “And, you believe they are being held in a vault underneath the chapel of the Benedictine Brothers in Immaculate Crossing, Missouri. Okay, this is a joke right?”
“Nope. In 1880s the Benedictine Monks carried the papers from Switzerland; that much we know is true.”
“The documents left Switzerland with the Monks. A recent discovery in an old church ruin in Switzerland pointed to the monks carrying the documents to the States.” Musgrove pointed to lines on the printout in front of Jackson.
“Second question. Why now? If these documents exist they have sat in the vault of the Abbey since the 19th century. What’s the rush?”
A faction of the illuminati, juxtaposed to the countries of France and Italy are seeking the property. And a couple of known treasure seekers, plus some criminal elements apparently are searching for the documents as well, their quest, we are told, is to steal the documents to embarrass the Papacy by using DeMolay’s false confessions to show errancy of the Church. DeMolay recanted these 14th century documents, as you know, however that caused him to be burned at the stake in the middle of the Seine River. Now enter the monks, a group of Swiss Monks, loyal to Pope Clement V, somehow they came into the false confessions and secretly held the documents till their North American venture in the 19th century. The documents are believed to have been transported and hidden in the middle of America at Immaculate Abbey, and are still at the Abbey, in a vault, never disturbed since.” Musgrove took the file from Jackson and started putting papers back into his briefcase. “If you wanted to hide something where would you hide it? In the least likely place on earth,” he paused and pointed a spoon at Jackson. “Right?”
“Okay, I buy the history, where do you and the company come in?” Jackson titled his chair.
“The company represents a French Archive who believe the documents are rightfully theirs. They say monks stole them and they have documented proof that the French own the papers. This all came up in a negotiation between the French Archive, the Church in Italy and the Benedictine Monks of Switzerland. The French have already paid the church highly for rights to the documents. Nobody including the Church, the Swiss, nor the Italians, can find the documents. As for the French; they simply want them returned or payment, e.g. insurance for their loss which, by the way, is an eight figure amount. The clandestine factors would cause havoc with this arrangement.”
“So, maybe this French Archive should telephone,” Jackson flipped out his cell phone and pretended to dial, “the good monks at Immaculate Abbey and request the documents back?”
“They were told they don’t exist.”
Jackson fidgeted in his seat. “So, you want me drive over to Immaculate Crossing to steal something out of the Abbey basement; simple, you say, just walk in, crawl in the basement, pocket the goods and drive away; now I’m beginning to understand. I’m a retiree with no connection to the company or hardly any family. I go to jail for breaking and entering and you all won’t even go my bail.”
Musgrove slid a check over to Jackson.
Jackson picked up the check, “Hmm, I think I could do 30 days in the slammer for this. Y’all must want this piece of paper very badly.”
“A trio of documents. Let’s say our purposes are two fold. First satisfy our client, and second keep this faction group of illuminati from opening a can of worms which would possibly embarrass several million Freemasons, the French and Italian Governments, and the papacy.” Musgrove took the check back.
“Oh, I get it now. So their real intention is to somehow influence the Pope?” Jackson tapped the table.
“Uh huh, probably, that’s my guess too, and apparently they will stop at nothing to do just that, I think the ultimate goal is to so embarrass the Pope with papal misdeeds that somehow they can become a viable entity into the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, a place they haven’t been in eight centuries. The masons being the antitheist of the church is icing on the cake. As the masons claim a basis and tie to the Templars.”
“In other words, they will take down every organization in their path in order to succeed? The misdeeds of religious zealots of any religion, never ceases to amaze me.”
Musgrove chuckled. “We’re on the same page.”
Jackson pointed at the check. “Okay, this is a down payment right?”
“Depends, you deliver the documents to my office in Kansas City, or to the office in New York, and you get the other half. No delivery and well, just say you will go into permanent retirement, cause DeMolay’s death will look like child’s play.”
“You’re threatening me?”
“Not at all, just emphasizing how important this is to our client.”
“And, if I say no?” Jackson cocked his head.
“Nothing happens, you stay right here in New Sparta running your ghost writing business, planting tomatoes, and whatever; and wondering how you could have been the one to save the papacy, Freemasonry, and the French government. Besides Jackson, you’re too young to waste your life away in this podunk village. Time to move on.”
“Shish, Musgrove, I could learn to hate you.”
“I know you’re a Mason. When’s the last time you went to a lodge meeting?”
“Been awhile,” Jackson admitted.
“Better go.” Musgrove got up and threw a twenty-dollar bill on the table. “Last chance. Want the check?” Musgrove held it over Jackson’s head.
Jackson reached up and grabbed at the check. “I need a new laptop.”
“You want the Lexus?”
“Absolutely not, get me a pickup, a used impala, or a jeep or something a man would drive.”
Musgrove laughed. “I’ll have one brought here tomorrow. Laptop will be in it.”
“Get me a burn phone too. Make sure it has minutes and data; I want a 340 area code.”
“You don’t ask for much.” Musgrove made a note on a pad. “Anything else?”
“I need all the hardware you can muster, if I’m digging in a basement or a wall, maybe a deep vault or cavern, find some climbing and spelunking hardware. ”
“Wow. Okay, what else?”
“Yeah, give me the check.” Jackson reached up again.
Musgrove handed Jackson the check. “A piece of advice. Don’t put this is a local bank. Open an account at Bank America or another national bank away from your personal account, go to KC or St. Joseph. This is a big freelance job, you don’t the accounts to mess up your own account, the last thing you need is for the IRS to get more than their share of your funds.” Musgrove waved and walked out the door toward the Lexus. “Oh, Jackson, there isn’t a clock on this, but the French will want payment, sooner or later. Think about it.” He opened the car door and drove away.
Dolly approached the table. “I like tippers like him.”
Jackson folded the check and put it in his breast pocket. “Never trust an insurance man; least not that one.”