The operator, a middle age woman by the name of Madeleine Royale, sends a dispatch over to 160 Rue de l’Université. The call goes out over the police radio system TETRAPOL, and as soon as the address is given, a notification is sent to Frederic Berthelot, the Head of the French National Police. He must notify the Grand Master. It is what he owes the Organisation. That is his role: always staying on top of the game, informing the Grand Master if any police inquiries are ever made. And if anything should ever lead to an investigation, his role is clear there too. Potential evidence and witnesses are to be immediately eliminated.
He calls Rabelais to tell him a dispatch has been sent to the address of the apartment. Rabelais informs him things are already being taken care of, but that he will call him later to confirm. What he doesn’t know about is Cyril’s warning concerning the welfare of Justine. But as Mademoiselle Royal is new to the job, she has simply forgotten to pass this piece of information through.
Mr. Nemo removes the gas source. He inserts a little camera underneath the door to see if all is clear. The Seneschal lays on the floor amidst his own vomit with froth emitting from his mouth. There is no sign of life. He takes out a measurement devise to detect cyanide levels, which are now rapidly dropping, still he will use a gasmask when he enters. The lock is not difficult to pick. It is an old cylinder lock that has for years been replaced with more heavy dead bolts at other residences. For some reason the Seneschal had never deemed personal security a top priority. He wonders if the benefit of hindsight would have changed this.
It takes only two minutes. The day is young; it’s just a little past noon. He hasn’t slept much, in fact not at all, but sleep is something he can do without. The Foreign Legion had trained him to go for three days without sleep whilst marching rugged and often immensely hot terrains.
He closes the door behind him, and checks for breath or a pulse. The man is as dead as can be, so he steps over him and secures the apartment. One room after the other. No one is there, which makes his work a little bit easier. He doesn’t wish to make a mess in the apartment, as there will be no crime to report when the authorities are eventually alerted. Instead, it will be called a disappearance, one which would probably never see a resolution.
Mr. Nemo has done searches in under two minutes. But here he will need at least ten times that time if he is not to leave any signs of disturbance. But he has time. That is something he is sure of.
Fortunately, it isn’t a large place, so he starts off with the living room. It is a cluttered room, mostly from books piled high in crooked formations. Most of it hasn’t seen a cleaning for weeks, maybe months. He scans the area in front of him, avoiding the dust-covered heaps of books. At least for now, unless nothing turns up.
The living quarters are made up of a threadbare silk chaise longue, an antique coffee table, two antique chairs and a Chesterfield. He turns over the cushions and checks for anything inserted in their filling, but they turn up empty. He checks under carpets, in cabinets, behind curtains and paintings of minor masters. Nothing. He is meticulous in his search and it is already approaching one o’clock when he is done with the first room.
He continues to the bedroom and the adjourning bathroom with similar results. The search is precise and fastidious yet reveals nothing. So he sits down on the bed that stands in stark contrast with the rest of the furniture. Cyril Monfort, he thinks to himself, You are a writer, a bibliophile, whose most precious possessions are your books. It’s the one thing you will protect at all costs, and it’s the one thing you will think of at all times. Would you sacrifice them for the sake of something even more precious?
He turns his attention to the library, and the thousands of volumes that sit on its shelves. It will take time, but he is certain it will yield results. He first scans the place, and with the exception of a few books, all is covered in dust. He pulls out the books that aren’t as well as those sitting immediately next to them. He flips through them, but to no avail.
No, it can’ be here, he thinks. Then he thinks of the piles of books, all covered with dust. Is it that simple? He recalls the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau. Saunière, the parish priest, was said to have found the first parchments in a Visigoth pillar holding up the altar in his parish church. Pillars, yes pillars, that must be it. He scans every room and finds over thirty piles of books. So he sets to work, one by one, lifting carefully the first book so as not to disturb the built-up residue of dust. Underneath sit fresh books, any one could be the harbour of treasures.
Eventually he comes to the last pile, sitting in a corner of the living room. The middle book is an old hardcover with yellowing pages: Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. He turns the book upside down, so the pages face the floor, and waves them. A letter falls out. He recognises the handwriting as that of the Hedge-Fund Man and places it in his back pocket before he continues the search.
The last book – the last book of all the book piles – is a heavy old late 17th century bible. Its leather cover is cracking, exposing the brown-stained cellulose underneath. He opens the cover and several pages of gothic print follow with it. This exposes the insides of the book, which are now gone and replaced by a cut-out cavity. He immediately recognises the box inside – a wooden box he had bought from a gypsy street vendor for five euros. He had haggled with her, eventually knocking the price down from twelve to five. The woman, who had the most intense grey eyes, had told him he would find good use for it. When he turned around, ready to cross the street, he thought he heard her say, “That was the Devil who just paid us a visit.” He stopped for a moment and turned back, but the woman, her daughter and her belongings were already gone.
Now he looks down at the same box. He opens it and untangles its contents. He remembers every single one of their owners. He relives their last moments, quick flashing moments, a white neck, a single stroke with the axe, squirts of blood in rapid succession, a head that rolls to the side.
He is done here. He has what he came for. The only other things he needs to take with him are the computer and a battered brown briefcase containing the Seneschal’s agenda and notebook. And then there is the body. Rigor mortis will start to set in within the next hour. He goes downstairs and collects a large box and a crate carrier on wheels.
The body has to be bent, but needs no further work to fit it in its temporary confinement. He seals the box with duct tape, and before he leaves makes a last survey of the apartment. It all looks like the way it did when he came. He closes the door and takes the lift down with his cargo in tow. An old woman holds open the door as he wheels the earthly remains of Cyril Monfort out to his van. He thanks her. If the woman should ever be asked whom she had met, she would say it was a deliveryman. And he was most polite.
It is already close to three o’clock. He makes a quick call to the Supreme Master, notifying him of the latest events.
“I am now on my way to dispatch of the goods,” he assures him.
The Supreme Master has his own news. “There have been some developments. They are not good.”
“The police have been sent to the crypt. Perhaps the Seneschal warned them after all.”
“Is it certain?”
“We are looking into it. But for now stay away. I have other men on the case.”
“Certainly. What about Douleur?”
“She has top priority.”
He listens until the phone line goes dead. Then he turns his attention to 9 Rue Chaptal.