Chapter 34

Blood of the Traitor

Diana and Jeanne approached doorway of the bone chapel with as much trepidation as if they were walking into the jaws of a hungry beast. The sense was made all the more literal by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of toothy lower jaws which were affixed to the side posts and lintel of the doorway. Now that they were closer, the women could see that the chapel was not constructed entirely out of bone, but rather built from a framework (Diana initially thought of the word “skeleton”, but had to suppress the thought so that she would not laugh) of iron rods joined at the corners with bolts, with the bones attached to the rods by tightly twisted lengths of steel wire.

The robed priest met them at the door. He was a tall man with a narrow face, long nose, and piercing blue eyes that glittered in the flickering candlelight. He glared down at the two women and spoke in rapid French. “I don’t know who you are, and truth be told I don’t especially care. You have trespassed in a sacred place and will pay for your violation.” He lifted the cowl of his robe and settled it over his head, casting his face into shadow. “Follow me,” he said. Then he turned from the women and stalked up the aisle towards the altar that rested at the center of the chapel.

“Like hell I am! Whatever you’ve got planned, I most…” Diana started, but then she felt the cold steel of Gerard’s gun pressing into the nape of her neck and her words cut off with a shallow gulp.

“Please follow the master’s instructions,” Gerrard growled. He stepped closer until his stood only inches from Diana and whispered to both women, “We only need you alive. There is plenty of time for pain before you die.”

Diana took a long, shuddering breath and glanced to Jeanne, but she only scowled and gave a slight shake of her head before looking away. Only once before in her life had Diana been threatened by men carrying guns and, come to think of it, that had been the last time she allowed herself to be drawn into one of Oliver’s mad adventures.

Oliver, you’d better have a plan to get us out of this, Diana thought as she squared her shoulders, suppressing a shudder as the barrel of the gun traced a cold circle on her neck.

The interior of the chapel was roughly fifty feet long and thirty wide, with aisles marked out by neatly arranged collections of arm and hand bones, the fingers of each hand grasping at the elbow of the arm that rested after it, all leading towards the central altar. The interior of the chapel was illuminated by two large chandeliers suspended from the central ridge pole, each supporting more than a dozen thick wax candles, which perched atop skulls dripping with melted wax.

Jeanne took all of this in at a glance, then looked from side to side, searching for any sign of Oliver or the other gunman. She wished that she could blame the entire situation on Oliver and, whoever that girl was that he had brought with him into the catacombs, but she had to admit to herself that without his intervention she might already be dead. Even if she had overcome the guardian, it seemed unlikely that the priest and his armed bodyguards had been brought to this place by the sound of Oliver’s gunshot. No. The key moment had probably been when she confessed her true name to the guardian.