The Amber Room

Written in response to: Set your story in an unlikely sanctuary.... view prompt

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Adventure Fiction Suspense

"What do you mean it's been here the whole time?"

"Yes, since World War II." Brother Charles said, holding the door open, waiting for Jack to pick his jaw up from the ground and step inside. "It was smuggled here when the Nazis looted Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg. Let's be honest, who the hell is going to look in a sanctuary residing in little old Pecos, New Mexico?"

"I didn't think monks swore."

"I'm a monk, not a saint.

The man in monk's robes led Jack into the ornately decorated room. Great panels of gilded amber adorned each wall, making a dazzling display. Once thought to be the eighth wonder of the world, it was believed that the room gifted to Czar Peter I of Russia had been disassembled and stolen by Nazi invaders during the second world war, only to be lost for all time. It was THE lost Amber Room.

"Come, let us talk in my chambers."

The monk led Jack through the monastery to a small room. The space was sparse. A small cot, a kneeling bench for prayers before a tiny "nicho" carved into the thick adobe wall adorned with a picture of Christ, and unlit candles lined a wall. An old hardwood table with a water pitcher and cup was situated opposite.

"Please have a seat," the man waved Jack to the small bed. "Let me tell you the story as I, or I should say we, know it.

"We?" Jack asked.

"Yes, we. We are the brothers of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We have been the guardians for centuries of many objects. Like the Amber Room, some hold great cultural importance, some of greater significance to the structure of mankind's religious beliefs. This monastery has acted as a sanctuary and repository of sorts for items in need of protection.

Jack looked with curiosity at his host. He had been on the trail of a shadowy organization that left a bloody swath on the path to some yet unknown end. That path had led him here, to the arid lands of New Mexico. He and his team of special operators had been tasked with figuring out what they wanted and stopping them before any further bloodshed occurred. Men and women gathered from the various special forces branches, keen on detective work and highly skilled in combat situations. They were the best in the business, the most elite agents the United States government had ever produced, and they were getting closer to their objective.

"I believe you are a good man, Jack. We may seem like a simple order of monks here, but I assure you, our skills and contacts go far deeper than what you see on the surface. We know your team well, and we know a great deal about the members, particularly yourself."

Jack's features hardened. How the hell could a bunch of peace-loving monks know anything about him and his background. His group had been a closely held secret in the halls of the pentagon and kept to "black book" status.

"Jack Hale, age thirty-seven, call sign, "Red Knight." I could go on, but I think you understand. You served 3 tours in Afghanistan in a specialized investigative unit before accepting your current posting state-side with team "Telum," Latin for "spear." You have fifteen confirmed kills in the line of duty, all ruled clean. You have closed a record of nineteen cases in your particular line of work, which is the recovery of unique objects and information the U.S. government deems sensitive at the highest level.

"Okay, enough about me. Explain why you have the Amber Room secreted away here, how it got here, and what else you happen to have lying around?"

"As you may know, the Amber Room was dismantled by the Nazis in 1941 when Russia was invaded. It was said that all objects that comprised the room were moved to Königsberg castle. However, when the Red Army seized the city, no trace was found. That's because it was disassembled by members of the allied forces and transported to the United States. There is much more to the room than meets the eye. Each panel, when illuminated, tells a story. The story goes back to the time of the last supper. Supposedly, though we have not been able to crack the hidden code and meanings within the strange symbols, it tells of the location where Christ was buried with the cup he used for his final blessing; the holy grail.

"Well, since I'm no stranger to oddities, I suppose anything could be possible. Please, go on."

"Are you familiar with Arthurian legends?"

"You mean King Arthur and the knights of the round table stuff?"

"Yes. In Arthurian legend, the Fisher King or Maimed King was the last in a bloodline charged with keeping the holy grail safe. They are stories of a king based on a real man who brought peace to troubled lands. Members of the Fisher King bloodline were responsible for the disappearance of the Amber Room, which is now safely residing here."

"Okay, but how did these clues come to be mixed up within the amber panels?"

"That is a story for another day, my son. Suffice to say that it was thought these clues could remain hidden until the right time or person were to use them. They were placed in the care of the Russian monarchy, which happened to be a branch of the bloodline. All European monarchs are part of the same royal family tree, after all.

DONG! DONG! DONG! Came the sanctuary bell.

"Come now, let us go and break bread with the other brothers. You'll want to meet them and see what else we have "laying around here," as you so eloquently put it.

Jack picked up his cell phone and dialed a number he had memorized long ago.

"Shane, it's all clear. Bring the others and meet us in the main hall of the monastery. We have some things to discuss with the monks that could prove useful to our investigation."

"Roger that," replied the team's second in command.

Brother Charles ushered Jack from his living quarters and in the direction of the main hall. The atmosphere was positively electric as they passed more "nichos" walled off with glass and filled with objects Jack knew were of great importance.

"I can't believe you keep this stuff in plain sight," Jack said.

"There's usually no better place than where someone would least expect it. Should someone be daring enough to attempt a robbery of our vault, they'll find it rather barren. Not to mention it's hard to get into." Brother Charles moved a fold of his robe to show Jack the 9mm Beretta handgun he hadn't noticed before.

"Heat packing monks? Now I've seen everything."

As the two men moved down the halls and under an outdoor porch, others joining them as they passed, a shot rang out from a source unseen. A small red stain grew larger with every second on the monk's chest. Collapsing into Jack's arms, the man could be heard trying to say something between gurgled breaths. The bullet had pierced a lung. 

 Jack drew his 1911 colt in a flash, ducking behind a large beam supporting the porch's overhang and dragging the monk behind him. Little geysers of dirt popped here and there as more silenced shots came. The gravitas of the situation sinking in, Jack pressed hard on the wound to staunch the blood flow, but it was no use. The man was bleeding out, and miles from any medical care, he knew he wouldn't make it.

"My son," the monk choked out, "you must go to the sanctuary's chapel with brother Peter. There you will find answers.

"Hang on, pall! This ain't over yet." Jack drew his phone out again and hit redial, splinters of wood peppering his face as more and more shots blasted into the wood support they hid behind.

"Shane, we're taking heavy fire here! Secure the outer parameter, then send in Elida, Joe, and Rory."

"Jack! I heard some pops, but we didn't see anyone. Can you get to cover?"

"Negative," Jack spat. We are behind a pillar, but it won't hold long if the shooter gets a better angle. Brother Charles has been hit. It's fatal.

"Go, Jack!" the monk waved his hand at the man.

Jack spoke into his phone again. "We need suppressing fire. I have to get to the chapel."

"Roger that, on our way in."

As the shooting subsided, so did the monk's grip on Jack's hand. Jack could see that the light from his eyes was beginning to flicker. Jack had witnessed death before, but this was different. He didn't know how yet, but it was

Firing three rapid shots in the direction of the hidden shooter, Jack took off at a sprint toward the chapel where the other brothers had fled during the shooting. He would only get one chance at this as he saw the little red dot of a laser sight playing against the adobe walls, covering his position in a tight arc. More muted pops could be heard as the adobe walls took the brunt of the onslaught behind him, crumbling and giving way to the high-velocity rounds.

Bursting through the doors to the sanctuary, Jack rolled behind the first set of pews, unable to stop his forward momentum from the mad dash for cover. Just when he thought the trail may go cold looking for this rogue organization, this happens. How the hell did they know about this place, and who was it?

He quickly regained his footing and pressed his back to the cool mud wall, sweeping the entry door with this handgun and calling out to the other monks. "Which one of you is Peter? Are you all packing weapons? The racking of gun slides answered Jack's question. One of the older monks stepped forward toward Jack, another 9mm Beretta in his right hand. "I'm Peter. Brother Charles told me of your coming. Follow me."

As the two wound their way through the seating and toward the front of the chapel, Jack couldn't help but wonder what the hell he had gotten himself into.

May 18, 2022 17:28

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