Gregg Loomis

The Pegasus Secret

The first book in the Lang Reilly series, 2005


Thanks to Mary Jack Wald, my agent, whose help and suggestions were priceless, not to mention her efforts to make sure this book saw print. Thanks to Don D'Auria, editor, for his help, too. Henry Lincoln's video on Rennes- le-Chateau was helpful, as were the suggested translation of the Latin puzzle in Poussin's painting by Richard Andrews and Paul Schellenberger's Tomb of God.



Southwest France


Father Sauniere had made a strange discovery.

The roll of vellum parchment was so old that the ribbon tying the sheets together had crumbled into dust when he took the bundle from its hiding place in the altar. He had never seen writing like this, faded lines that looked more like worm tracks than script.

He had been doing some work in the little church, repairs his parish could ill afford to hire out. The roof leaked, a number of the pews were going to collapse without new nails and the altar… Well, the altar was older than the church itself.

He frowned as he looked up at the altar. Basically a stone slab, centuries of serving the Holy Eucharist had worn it so unevenly that it was about to fall from the two short plinths supporting it. Even at six feet and over two hundred pounds, he had barely been able to lift the block from its supports. That was when he had discovered that one of the columns was hollow-with the parchments inside.

No one knew the origins of the altar. Sauniere supposed it' had come from the ruins of one of the many castles nearby. Its intricate carvings were far too elaborate for a church whose poor box rarely yielded more than a few sous at a time.

The area was old. Romans, Templars, perhaps even Moors when it had been part of Catalonia in Spain. The altar could have come from anyone of their chapels.

Or Cathars or Gnostics.

The possibility that the altar could have been part of heretic or pagan services made Sauniere wince. God alone knew what heathen use the stone might have served. He looked over his shoulder as though someone might be there to reproach him for the thought.

Mere objects could not be evil, he told himself. Still, holding these pages made him uncomfortable. It might be best if they were destroyed. No, that was not his decision to make. He would show them to the bishop on the prelate's next visit, let authority decide.

What harm could mere inanimate documents do, anyway?

The answer came to him as he was conducting evening mass: It had been paper nailed to a cathedral door that had torn the church apart forever.

Part One




0234 hours

The explosion shook the entire Place des Vosges as well as a good part of the Marais district. Had the thirty-six town houses, nine on each side of the square, been built with less sturdy material than the handmade bricks of four centuries past, the damage might have been greater. Even so, the antique glass had been blown out of every window of the largest of these stately homes, the former Hotel de Rohan-Guemenee, the second floor of which had been the home of Victor Hugo.

The only real damage, though, was to number 26, the source of the blast. By the time the pompiers from the 11th arrondissement, the district fire department, arrived twelve minutes later, the building was four stories of inferno. Saving the house and its occupants was not a possibility.

A line of gendarmes kept spectators a respectful distance from the blaze while others interviewed bathrobe clad residents. One man, an apparent insomniac, told the officers he had been watching a rerun of the past year's World Cup championship match when he had heard a crash of shattering glass followed by a flash of light brighter than any he had ever seen. Rushing to the window, he had nearly been blinded by the intensity of the blaze.

The glass, the policeman asked, could it have crashed when something was thrown through a window?

The man stuffed a fist into his yawning mouth, his interest diminishing now that the best part of the show was over. How does one distinguish between glass shattering when something is thrown into it rather than something being thrown out? He shrugged as only the French can, conveying uninterested ignorance as well as annoyance at a stupid question. 'Je ne sais pas.'

He turned to go back home, almost bumping into a middle-aged man in a suit. The spectator wondered what anyone would be doing in business attire at this hour. Not only dressed, but in a shirt freshly starched, jacket and trousers neatly pressed. He shrugged a second time and trudged homeward wondering if 'IV reception in the neighborhood had been affected by the fire.

The gendarme touched the brim of his cap with a nod, an almost involuntary sign of respect as he wished the new arrival, 'Bon soir.' A straightening of the back and an air of deference were obvious. It was not every neighborhood fire that drew the attention of the Department of State Security and Investigation, the DGSE.

The DGSE man gave the slightest of nods before staring intently into what was now a smoldering shell. Plumbing, twisted by the heat, poking into emptiness like supplicating arms. The adjacent homes exhibited an ugly black patina of soot as they stared onto the square with windows void of glass. Hot embers hissed with steam as firemen hosed them down. It was as if a shaft straight from hell had broken through the earth's surface where the townhouse had once stood.

'Any idea as to the cause?' the DGSE man asked.

The fireman was fairly certain the nation's security service would not be interested in leaking gas or a match carelessly dropped into the home's supply of kerosene. 'No sir, none.' He pointed. 'The chief fire inspector is over

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