CHAPTER FIVE HUNDRED and SEVENTY-EIGHT
“Get moving,” Matthew said. “The UN guy says that he has to get inside the mine to lay claim to it. If he can’t get in …”
“We’re open to all forms of crazies,” Seth said.
“Roger, that,” Alex said.
“I’ll go first,” Vince said.
He stepped through the opening. Alex followed him and Seth stepped in after Alex.
Stunned by what they saw, they stood at the opening of the salt tunnel. The tunnel was about twenty feet wide and more than ten feet tall. The floor was compact dirt. The walls of the tunnel were encrusted with salt crystals.
Crates of paintings were stacked five feet high. Glass covered bookshelves were filled with bound books and ancient scrolls. There were three-ten foot tall marble sculptures and more than one ornate stain glass rosary windows from churches. There were stands filled with swords made from every form of metal and even a few made out of precious stones. There were even walking sticks.
The tunnel started where they were standing. The precious art storage began where they were standing and ended somewhere at least a football field ahead of them in the dark.
“Wow,” Vince said finally.
“It looks like the basement of the Louvre,” Seth said mildly. “British museum.”
Alex opened a filing cabinet.
“These are records of everything that’s here,” Alex said. “What it is, who left it. Even an index of what should be here.”
They stared down the tunnel in disbelieving silence.
There was a pounding knock again. Alex pointed toward a brown wood barnlike door. With Vince’s help, they managed to move the heavy door. Pierre and Ben stepped inside.
“Whoa,” Ben said.
Pierre stared at the tunnel.
“Incredible,” Pierre said.
He gravitated to the swords.
“These are …” Pierre gave a disbelieving shake of his head. “We believed that these were lost to the Nazis.”
“The Nazis wanted them?” Seth asked.
“The Nazis collected historic weapons used in war,” Pierre said. “They stole weapons from my grandfather. When the blades were returned, there were numbers on the side of the swords for the number of ‘pagans killed’ by the blade.”
“How would they know?” Vince asked.
“They wouldn’t,” Pierre said. “I should say that we don’t know, and we are historians for this kind of thing. How could they have known? They couldn’t. Everything Nazi is a fabrication. Is that a surprise?”
“Not to me,” Vince said.
“What are these swords?” Alex asked.
“These five are original crusade swords,” Pierre said, pointing to a set of five swords bound together by degrading rope. He gestured to a spear leaning against the wall. “This spear is said to be the spear that punctured Christ. I … Each blade has a story, a history … They are priceless.”
Overwhelmed by what they found, they stared at the contents of the tunnel in another period of shocked silence. Recovering first, Alex put her hand on Pierre’s arm.
“Let’s get to work,” Alex said.
Denver Cereal continues tomorrow…
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