photos and story by James Travers-Murison
The tramp approached me at the street corner of Elizabeth and Burke in the city. I thought he wanted money, but it was some scruffy old papers he tried to shove into my hand. I attempted to push him away, but he would have none of it.
“Guv, take em, please.”
He was gone as quick as he came and I, Michael Baaygone was left standing with a pile of old papers in my hand and a couple of city shoppers laughing as they walked on. That was in Melbourne in June 2003.
Manila in the evening is a crowded Catholic Mass. The airport was a buzz and escaping to the overhanging car ramp lined with taxis dangling crucifixes from their rear vision mirrors, we were accosted by a couple of drivers. They had rough swarthy looks of hardened criminals. The fares seemed too much, so I had us drag our luggage across the carpark to find a bus. There was no bus there, so we tried to get across the parking lot to the highway to hail a cab. In the vast lot, we were ushered to a pirate taxi. Unsure what to do, the locals picked up our luggage, put them on their heads, much to Pamela Rare d’Ove’s delight and headed off to the vehicle in the far dark corners. I was enraged at the sudden grabbing of the bags and tried to stop them shouting at Pamela, but on they rushed to the taxi.
Any minute I thought that would be the end of our luggage, but no. At the cab, they placed the bags in the boot as I tried to negotiate a price. He was about the same as the ones outside the terminal and wouldn’t come down, so we headed off into the mad night. The highway was a mass of taillights on a duel carriageway that seemed to have no edge, that for moments became a freeway and then reverted back to a pavementless road bordering a gravelly edge of dirty buildings many half constructed. We asked the taxi driver to take us to a Hotel that would cost about $10 a night, so he took us to a largish little rundown complex and at the desk we discovered it was $25. The room had a bathroom and air-conditioning, but otherwise was characterlessly empty and like the Hotel slightly forlorn. They came down a few dollars on pushing. I was almost going to go on, but tired and hungry and keen to see the man in Manila, we took it.
The night was young when we headed out on the town. Took a taxi and asked to be taken to the centre. We searched for the reasonable place he had told us of in the letter with the airfares to Paris via Manilla and its strange request to meet someone called the man in Manilla then to fly to Paris and pick up a Renault R5. It was not a western hotel and was not a seedy dive or takeaway outdoor cafe. Finally by a row of patched grey concrete houses there was an old Spanish restaurant, the Mercardo. Rooms full of what once were classy tables, now slightly weather-beaten, knocked with the moist alcoves of dictated time. Wood rotting in corners uplifted by the touch of dust embedded mildew and the faint smell of charity, of the sweet pungency of spice - ginger and coriander. Fish and paella and some exotic Filipino dishes filled us up. There were only a couple of customers, one very fat group, a Filipino family, were balanced on their stomachs smiling over at us and I was dreaming always of someone or something more exciting, like the thighs of the German girl looking lovingly into her lover’s eyes a table away.
After a desert of lychees and watery ice cream, I was bored. The man had not come. And as we walked the coastal boulevard, the little discos hidden down side lanes appeared. In one girlie bar we watched some European men admiring go-go girls strutting about in very high mini-skirts on a stage by the bar. One beer later we were dead rigid at the total lack of sensuality. It exuded the brain death of an emptiness of imagination as the girls would come up and say ‘hello’ with that blank wide-eyed look of a hairdresser in a nouvelle boutique. Heading back we were accosted by some seedy gents. The one who spoke was middle aged with a bright floral shirt.
“Hey want to see show?”
I stopped to hear about it.
“Good show girl boy do it, then girl girl, then girl boy girl. You like!”
I smiled, Pamela was half listening.
“What happens?” I was used to the tricks after Pigalle in Paris and Kings Cross in Sydney.
“They sex. All you see. Very nice.” There was something half appealing about him and I was almost tempted, but Pamela was starting to back away.
“I get girl for you and your girlfriend, she make you happy.”
I paused, “How much?”
“Twenty dollars, special price.”
I looked over at Pamela. Caught her hand, there was a fire in my eyes. “Do you want to try it?” She shook her head. “Come on, it looks like they are OK.”
“Come on.” My eyes brightened and implored.
“No,” she pulled at me to go and spoke softly.
I frowned a bit and slightly pulled her back.
“OK, well let’s just see the show.”
“No, no I don’t want to,” she began to walk off and I looked back at the man who smiled apologetically. She started to walk down the street and as I was about to follow her, he spoke quickly.
“You have the manuscript,” he paused, “the latin documents on the Sion.” I nodded slowly and his face creased into a grim smile, “where are you staying?”
It was him. I whispered the name of our Hotel three times clearly, then hurried back through the green and yellow attired promenading crowd after Pamela.
A taxi took us back, but the driver did not seem to understand what a red light or a brake was. We sat in the back half terrified, half excited as cars swung past us, pedestrians dodged and horns blared. The bangles of Jesus on the front window no doubt protected him. The maniacal smile brought him to a halt in front of our hotel.
The next day we did some shopping. I bought a pair of jeans. We looked at the harbour, left the hotel without a word from the man in Manila and went to the airport to catch Air Pakistan. As business class passengers to Karachi we were entitled to sit in the first class lounge ‘drinks area at the airport’, where before the “dry” flight all the businessmen got tanked.
There was a rather scruffy looking businessman, Pakistani, he had that emaciated gaunt look of a person in there 30’s who looks 40. The stress of too many hours, not enough sleep and he was drowning himself in drink. I smiled at him. He beckoned me over, but I ignored him. He staggered up to me when I went to the toilets, and suddenly in a sober voice said,
“the man could not meet you, I’ll hand you some papers on the plane.”
In the jumbo, we sat in the narrow and not too long, second storey flight deck. It was my first experience of anything other than economy. The hostess was dressed in a sari and had the same unnaturally aged gauntness of the businessman. I was cuddled up to Pamela as we taxied into the equatorial night, down the runway and across Luzon peninsula towards the South China Sea and Bangkok. Curry rice and pappadams, it was exotic but hardly luxurious, the other passengers appeared oblivious and unfriendly. The hostess was watching us with a disapproving look as Pamela lay across my lap. The Pakistani was not there. We watched a movie and all too soon were in Bangkok.
Transit passengers joined us and then nothing. And more of nothing. For three hours we sat in the plane, until it was announced that ‘due to insufficient crew the plane, the jumbo, would not be permitted to take off’. A month later I found out why they had delayed the plane. Half an hour later another announcement, ‘business class passengers would have to relocate to first and economy seats’. I was out of my seat, pushing Pamela forward and asking her to hurry.
The first class seats were enormously wide and had an electronic console, rather like a miniature joystick, in which the seat could be manipulated. The control button was broken and the seat fabric was very worn with small tears. We were forced to sit apart as the first class passengers had spread themselves out. The Pakistani businessman was sitting next to me.
“Here are the papers, we trust in god that you can bring it through.” He handed me a small bundle of sheets in a manila folder, only one sheet had writing on it. “Look after them, destroy them if need be.” He then smiled, “now I’m going to get some sleep.”
The Karachi airport transit lounge at about 7 am was full of passengers, tired and bored. Nothing was open, there was no air conditioning and sweat was pouring off my face. The Pakistani man had gone. Lurid glares of the sellers in white caftans and jubulis could be seen from the reinforced glass windows, surrounded in the dust, the heat of mid-morning.
The long summer heat that stretched us into a longer morning, finally about 12 some sandwiches came to compensate us for our missed flight. I snapped shots of the airport street through the thick glass windows using the telephoto
A taxi pulled up, the yellow roofed variety. The first taste of Arabia, through a window. Berbers, Parthan tribespeople, Mullahs, large fat businessmen, traders in baggy coffee white dressing gowns and lots of people just sitting. Pamela was irritating me.
I looked again at the papers in the folder, it was gibberish or code;
"rehsknf aske f dnrf deb w ddk fr the jjr nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn gkd ti rkekf vkfeeoedlddrr fjtjfnrnrkdrrmrffffmvmfksooeoeeoeefmriforowoeoirirjfjrlwerorijfjfjttrrprppo rroteuteugeu4[gejhdgktjtutpteowiu[[ei[uutijgtlgdaflurei9ue50r83uuljstiodogvd fuu953498fu59iu43jjigoliu9er40-0u=w5-utjejdhd;tq89wu8feo;tjheytoyu9tre8607=urh rjfhureptu03]=uireukjfhgriti7ertp6uerptu37yetkrehgnbrjhreihTfkiishferiEjMornmvnd fnrnnPdrnLidgieujhtriAuyjhhjerjgftjw[jfR[jerjiutiStutureotreueruei654890=utuertoig u[rg[wyu[eroirtiuq7590490Oeri4FiuurtopryuKrLtitutiOopotroirtoNpry[rw[w[w[wioruirutu ttututututrioritiutrirutrutireoturtutriutututututuriSrireoeoe
The taxi left and some men had pulled a lot of luggage out of it and put it on a trolley.
A man with a large white umbrella that he was using for a walking stick approached them. He quickly moved on. A few seconds later the men with the trolley stopped and began to exchange heated words. Then one of them opened one of the cases. I read on from the sheet.
IoeoeutputoututtOueroteotpN[pp[ejtjjgjejgdtjtu rtututur496450tefdjddgfjikjndfmvfndsjfjfjr. Gitf shOp fill od noThing bbut thingd hSt were nioT of importAance to becaeues etyoou aRe hurtiing lopt ipf poepe whty ing niorance wherre are you in loyuiiur hewad dn we musrt end the pain sCenerio fighter s Of lOve wht yahso you think you can beat me well waiut for thius wnhwhen spe di s eveeRy thing you wills ee that you eweere gright nmiunch faster type much better iand see the intifinifte trruth pakistan ia s is the krey to this rowjm Ds athe road to nowhreer just dIoNt; be curuel . Trying to hepl so slow to get messAge across need To go fastEr, pleaSre I’m beging you. `. Security forces werre watchging us throught the windows it was very dangerous and you know I.m right You treid to stop me but you failed you failed I will not use anger I will not use force It must be your volition your agreement , love is thre only waty, delaying is not good enough we have to move you it is niopt safe here your ligfe is in danger. Imean it we need to organise rescue teams iommediately thew opalnet is in grave danger I’m not kidding . We have to worlk togethernow, co-operatre the next poperatioon dont fight wirgtht me im ttrying to hrpep lkyoun werew aree you suriu lanksa in code op[en the fumgking plutonium nuclear missiles htnbingf nowNOWNIKWop555GGGGGGFFFFFFFFFGGG``````W-77777 m,,../,.,,,/.,;l;k;lkl;l;;l 30 July 2001 10 am Karack=hi. Two suspects to the far rightn of bus . Wearing white and light blue bb TP 300mm Pajamas. Infra red cal=mera shorts at 200fim using 100 settings"
A blue battered security bus pulled up out the front of the lounge. I puzzled through it in the heat as the hours passed and no plane came. It was the 30th of July 2003 and he had handed me the papers on the 29th. Exactly the same date mentioned on the cipher.
I looked back out to the street. The two Pakistani men passed a parcel to each other just outside the window the transit lounge. At 2.00 pm the plane arrived.
The explosion ripped through the presidential entourage. 50 kilos of explosive obliterated the steel reinforced Mercedes limousine. The bullet-proof glass dissolved in the heat. The motorcycle lead and two of the black security vehicles were taken with it. Our plane had already left.
There was a note on my seat, “meet me in the Shisha Antique shop Cairo International, you are protected, go through the security cordon like milk flowing through water.”
The plane, an old French airbus was crammed with passengers to Paris, including a French tour group. Coke was watered down, a bowl of slops called curry was poured round and immediately made me nauseous and diahorrearic. Pamela seemed amused by the flurry of Arab passengers. Tiny economy seats, the air conditioning didn’t work properly. Hayfever enveloped me as the dust poured into the plane as we taxied down the Egyptian runway. Cairo was dusty. Sneezing, face and eyes swelled I ignored the instructions to remain in the aircraft and we both went for a wander in the airport. Somehow we managed to slip past the security cordon as my Pakistani friend had told us we would and ended up in the shops of the main airport. Large caftaned white jubulli gowns and incense, the running of feet on carpets of silk. Long black beards, oils and smoke from Shisha pipes. Islam in a word. Coffee so thick you could stir your finger through it like a thick stew of mud and a smell like the essence of arrogance. The flow of divine grace in Allah permeated in a medieval labyrinth of high tech in Cairo airport. The Shisha Antique shop was empty. We saw the time. Our flight was due to leave in five minutes and the contact was not there. Rushing back to the departure area a guard stopped us and asked us for our boarding pass. We had none as we were in transit. He refused to let us through and called security. With a minute to go another guard arrived and then the first guard handed me back my passport. Suddenly we were hustled through, a walk run got us through the passage ways to the plane where the flight attendants were waiting ready to close the door. On board, more dust as we blasted totteringly down the mid 40 C heat of Cairo’s mid summer and towards the European blue and out of the Middle East. I was having one of my fits of hayfever. I really felt this was it. The dust was starting to alter my being.
De Gaulle airport was full of package tours. A note fell from my passport. The train to Paris was half full, and we would shortly be receiving our car, a little Renault 5. I read the note which was written in a mixture of arabic and english.
Later that day I said goodbye to Pam. I went to Rue Moufetard. There I followed Jamil, that was the name he gave me, through the streets of the Latin Quarter just after five, wondering where he was going to lead me next. He took me to a small restaurant in Rue Mouftarde that he said he knew from many times frequenting it in the past. The street was dark and narrow, and he took me into the Moroccan cafe, dimly lit, narrow arches and fez wearing waiters, we had entrocote and a good wine. The restaurant was about half full with tourists. Jamil looked highly intelligent, but I was thinking of the note, the Pakistani’s papers and the manuscript. He seemed to be having some difficulties with the menu as if he was dissatisfied with what he had ordered.
“giudrgkytaiprea4” he wrote on the white paper serviette and passed it to me.
“We located the car, it is a superb little Renault. A '5'.”
“Did you?” he continued browsing through the menu.
“We used to..”
“Shut up,” he stared at me with penetrating eyes, the blue that only the Arabs have, for he was a fat and from what I could tell wealthy Europeanised Arab. He neatly cut into the meat. “You know, I used to say to my wife,” he paused and took a sip of the ‘68 Bordeaux. “I would say to her you have been with me for one tenth of my life.” He ignored my attempt to look out the window. “To be protected,” he stabbed into the steak, “is to feel loved”. The blood of the entrocote dripped like a Rembrandt painting dipped in blood and I got up to leave.
“Sit down,” he motioned to me.
The forge at the back of the restaurant billowed heat towards us.
“The starving in Adjaefjerm, in Derfnirk, Etheopia. At the well we knew it. We knew the computer was wrong. The Templars will try and kill you, they have come back in time. You must not sell the ‘carte foe manuscript’ for any pictures price.”
He touched my arm ever so lightly, “we will win, you must believe that. It is just a matter of time,” he blushed, “the letters are the code,” he pointed to the serviette and began his pompous monotone, “My mother refused to lend me $1,000. She rang up and told me to default on the tenancy and find a cheaper place. She reiterated her obligations were closed with the giving of the $50,000. I reacted, telling her that she had given it in bad faith and had wished my ventures would fail. She hung up. I rang back and told her, on her answering machine that she was a disgrace.” I wondered what I was meant to say, whether he was making some cryptic reference to my financial state and the use I would put the manuscript. He downed his third cognac and continued, “That same day; that same bloody day a quake off the Antarctic Islands. And in America a 12 and a 13 year old boy opened fire on a school killing 4 girls and 2 teachers. The same age Zander and I were when Dad left.”
There were big tears welling in his eyes.
I watched him in an amused fashion, he did not really interest me. He was too preoccupied in himself, I thought what does he really want. He was too keen, too much after his own ends. The large blazer and tie with an imperial signet on it, his white baggy trousers and his smug look on his heavily jowled face that smelt of French aristocracy and pate de fois. He just did not understand. Perhaps that was the real clue he went so much on about love, yet the entire time I was with him, never actually practised it. That was my belief and I was so wrong.
He complained to the waiter that his cognac was cold, but refused to let him replace it. And I began to warm to him. He spent the rest of the evening translating the manuscript from its Latin text. The Cairo note had simply said, “rue Mouffetard in square by church 5.00 pm,” the rest I could not understand.
I finished my work on the car, had a plate fixed over the rust by faithful old Renault Procar, which I’d blacked and fishoiled. It was safe. While they fixed the plate, I went for a walk. There was a man dressed in a sarong and leather ‘Jesus sandals’ distributing Church of Spiritual Organic Veganism information posters to veggie cafes and organic groceries around Paris. I followed him, he finally stopped at Friends of the Earth who were located near the Champs de Lycees by the Louvre. In the mess upstairs, recycled waste, I met Spaz, the lost love child, he was on consignment from Greenpeace. He showed me round and I was introduced to Karl who was on the phone about a reclaim the street party. Then I met the anti-nuclear campaign organisers. Cam and Andre. We talked about the mines and groundwater contamination, which was my field, and related to a future film I was working on. From what Jamil had told me the Templars were very much alive and they had infiltrated the nuclear industry as well as the financial markets.
The Parisian streets were empty of people early in the morning. It was midsummer. The August Holidays had just began and we were ambling the streets in search of better accommodation. We had found a little place with pretty flowers in a pot. And a double bed that sank ever so softly into the middle. It was about 100 francs a night. So we swapped from the rather run down palace we were staying in. I read from the manuscript Jamil had awkwardly translated the night before;
The manuscripts that had been passed to me pointed to the last rites of Christ as depicted in the northern archway of Notre Dame. We visited the cathedral to verify the bas relief sculpture. It was true, there was a 13th disciple carved in. Who was he? Orleans was part of the key.
It was at the Cafe Aux Tours de Notre Dame that we first noticed we were being followed. A black woman in white shoes and a steel dark grey conservative dress, slightly plump with steel glasses, she was most probably of Indian descent.
The manuscripts pointed to a meeting between the Bishop Officiucus and the Orleans clergy in 1214 April 28th, holy advent;
Orleans. The Cathedral at Orleans. In that notable Gothic city, the Templars of Officiucus restored a secret triumvirate council in Orleans with which he intended to circumvent the papacy and reinstate the old Roman Empire.
We drove by motorway to Orleans and hoped for a clue. The Orleans cathedral dedicated to Joan d’Arc matched in a sharper arching style and light yellow stone its distant cousin, Notre Dame. 16 spokes to the window. Scouring the cathedral for signs of Officiucus, we could find nothing. However in the tomb room was a sarcophagus to Queen Anne de Lyon and in the far lower right corner was an inscription in Latin which said, “ad votum heracate lodantus Officiucus 1214”. The inscription translated from the latin fitted in with the manuscript, ‘Officiucus vote is fearfully loaded 1214’. It must have been a reference to the triumvirate. On closer inspection we saw that the rest of the latin had been erased. The only inscription I could make out was ‘Duke d’Orleans’. I enquired of the priest where the Duke d’Orleans now resided and he told me he had been executed during the French Revolution, however his relatives had still maintained a connection with the city. “Go to Fontainbleau,” he said.
The Chateaux on the Loire valley were to provide the next answer to the intractable puzzle that had driven us on since meeting the old tramp who had passed me the ancient writings, imploring me to take them. How to escape the meanderings of the old man’s voice, whom I knew I had to help? There must be a way. The mysterious airfare to Paris via Manila, sent in the post with the bizarre imploring request to meet the man in Manila at the Mercardo Restaurant with the manuscript. The bizarre coded message in the plane given by the Pakastani businessman. Now, the French-Arabian, Jamil, had translated the latin carefully. He had told us the fate of the Western world depended on this mystery being solved. He had turned and left before I could return the documents. Knight Templars and Christ were the connection.
My mind was filled with confusion. We had a strict budget, only so much to spend on each day. It allowed for about two sweet meals a day. The chic motel for 200F a night, in the done up fake miniature chateau by the stream, was our base. The Loire explored by the little Renault was where destiny was placing us.
"NEXT EDITION : Chapter 3 and 4 - Michael is led on a spiraling intrigue into the mystical world of the Templar's grail which leads to the Fountainbleau Chateau, the Loire and to seedy Bordeaux. Through bizarre revelations where a church to Satan opens up the true Grail saga, he is then led to a Spanish Basque monastery by an ex- Grand Master of the Sion, and the Templar's galactic proportions become apparent...
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