Chapter 14 of The Holy Lance, a fantasy thriller

Chapter 14, in which the good guys detect a small piece of the conspiracy. As always, comments are welcome.

CHAPTER 14

Chet Brinker, as has been his daily routine for what now seems to him an eternity, sits down at his desk after lunch to pore over another mind-numbing stack of documents. He takes a deep breath, shakes his head, and starts what he know will be another worthless four-hour stint in the chair.

“Hard time,” he thinks to himself.

He reads a document, turns it over, and sets it down on his left to start a new stack, always taking care to keep the documents in the order they were given to him. He reads two more and does the same with them. He reads a fourth, the first page of a museum inventory with 33 entries on it, sits upright, takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes. He reads it again. He quickly scans the next 20 documents before returning to the one that caught his eye. He picks it up and walks over to a small copy machine sitting on the only bookshelf in his office. Old styrofoam coffee cups and some newspapers are on the rarely-used copier. Brinker clears the machine off by sweeping the items onto the floor with his arm. He tries to copy the document, but the copier jams. He bangs on the copier, opens the copier doors to see if he can fix the jam, gives up, folds the document, tucks it into his pants pocket, and leaves his office.

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Chet Brinker, persona non grata in most offices at Langley, still has access to Archives, Delta level, and it is no wonder. The local area network long ago made it possible for most in the vast building to stay at their desks from the moment they clocked in until quitting time eight hours later. But not Chet Brinker. When the IT guys upgraded the LAN somehow they left Brinker’s office out of the loop. “No sense spending money or time on the turkey farm,” is how the omission was reported around the watercooler. As a result, whenever Brinker gets a wild hair about one of the thousands of documents he has to review each day, he has to travel the considerable distance to Delta level to search the largest and most sophisticated database in the intelligence world. And although Brinker’s access is no longer coextensive with that database, far more is within the ambit of his searches at this desk than is available to him at his own. Additionally, the oversized, multiscreen format of each of the ten terminals that comprise Delta level makes comparative documentary analysis far easier than if he were to try manipulate multiple images on the small single screen in his own office. The other nine terminals to Brinker’s right are, as usual, are unmanned.   

Brinker’s search has taken less than 15 minutes. He reviews the three screens in front of him. The flat screen on his left displays a copy of Higgins’ theft report from the Iraqi Museum of Antiquities, dated July 2, 1924. Diagonally across the document in large, red, upper-case letters are the words EYES ONLY. The middle of the three screens shows an image of a six-inch broken spear tip and nothing more. The screen to Brinker’s right has a list entitled “HOLY LANCE CLAIMED LOCATIONS,” and includes the following locations: Vienna, Austria; Vatican City; Echmiadzin, Armenia; Krakow, Poland; Budapest, Hungary; Paris, France. A brief description of each claimed Holy Lance is below each named location. Brinker cursors down quickly through the descriptions. When he is done, he sits back in his chair staring at the screens.

At first he fails to notice that Chet Laurel has entered Delta level and is standing behind him, briefly reviewing the information displayed on the three flat screens.

“All right, I’ll bite. What have you got?”

Brinker, without turning around, greets his colleague.

“Didn’t hear you come in. How long have you been standing there?”

“Long enough to see that you’re still certifiable. What’s all this?”

“Check this out,” Brinker points to the screen with the image of Higgins’ report.

“I found a reference to an artifact in a document from a stack of worthless junk taken out of Baghdad by our guys a couple of years ago.”

Laurel leans in and carefully reads the report on the screen.

“Like I said, I’ll bite. So what?” he asks as he straightens up.

“It’s a classified report about a broken spear tip, a spear tip that came from Paris, and that was stolen from the museum in Baghdad in 1924. The inventory I came across had it as the property of the British Mandate, but said nothing about it being missing.”

“And?”

“There’s nothing in the report about anything else being taken from the office of this guy Higgins.”

“Okay, whoever took it knew what they were after. Other than that, I’m not with you.”

Brinker swivels around in his chair to face his friend.

“Have you ever heard of the Holy Lance, the Spear of Destiny?” he asks with a smile and his eyebrows raised.

“The spear that killed Jesus? Long gone, my friend, if it ever existed.”

“Wrong, but thanks for playing. The spear exists. It’s in two pieces. The tip of the spear was believed to have been in Paris until the French Revolution when it disappeared.”

“Connect the dots for me, if it’s not too much to ask.”

“French Revolution? Paris? Spear tip from Paris stolen from Baghdad? That enough dots for you, or are you in a freaking coma?”

“Nothing else in the stack about the robbery or the spear?”

“Not that I’ve run across. There may be more, but nothing on either side of it.Why?”

“Not one other piece of paper, not another mention of it?”

“You’re repeating yourself.”

“Come on, Chet. Get serious. This is a routine report about an insignificant  stolen artifact.”

“See the forest, my friend, not the trees. I see the forest.”

“Look, Obi-Wan, do you really think that if a piece of the spear that killed Jesus Christ were stolen from a museum that it would rate nothing more than a single page report from some low level British bureaucrat?”

“That’s just it, young Skywalker. If they had it and lost it, they sure couldn’t advertise it. They’d be laughed out of Baghdad, or worse. The Brits were having enough problems governing the Mandate as it was. Why does the report mention Paris? Why is the report so low key, and why is it classified?”

“I think you’re seeing things that just aren’t there, buddy.”

“The legend is that the spear’s power is unimaginable. Whoever possesses it, and I mean the tip, the shaft, the whole shooting match, can control the world. But the tip has been missing for at least 250 years. Hitler coveted it; he was convinced it would bring him unlimited power.”

Laurel laughs.

“Well, there’s an endorsement from a perfectly rational source.”

“I’m taking it to the A.D.”

“She’s going to laugh at you, if you’re lucky. Besides, shouldn’t you take it to Johnson first?”

“Would have been a complete waste of time.”

“Would have been?”

“I already put it in an email to the A.D.”

Laurel winces.

“Ouch! Jumping the chain. Not smart, Chet. Not smart, especially for you.”

Brinker shrugs and pivots back to view the screens.

“I’ve got an appointment with her first thing tomorrow morning. What’s the harm? She probably laughs every time she hears my name as it is.”

“It’s your funeral.”

“You know as well as I do that as far as the company’s concerned, I’m already dead, buried down on the turkey farm under hundreds of thousands of pages of meaningless documents. So, what the hell? This could be my way back.”

“Can I have your office when they finally get the stones to fire you?”

Brinker laughs.

“Sure, but nobody gets my collection of Jerry Garcia ties. I want to be buried in them.”