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By George Davidson Greenly Jr.
Abbott PressCopyright © 2013 George Davidson Greenly Jr.
All rights reserved.
The US Military Academy West Point, New York March 12
Cadet Corps Commander Mathew Dwayne Jameson walked as fast as he could, stepping carefully so as not to slip on the ice and end up unceremoniously on his ass. As he made his way across the campus, his mood matched the leaden sky that was threatening more snow. What could the Man want to see him about? The e-mail said, "See me ASAP." Did he want to tell him his thesis and distinguished graduate status were in serious trouble? That would not be an acceptable situation and outcome! DJ, as many called him informally, was expected to be a distinguished graduate (known as a DG) just like his father and grandfather had been.
Entering the building, he hurried down the long hall, and the horseshoe taps on his heels, allowed by virtue of his rank as cadet corps commander, echoed off the marble-lined passageway to his destination. He stopped at the last door on the left. The brass plate on the massive wooden door proclaimed it to be the office of Paul Brown, PhD, Col. USA Retired, and History Department Chairman. Just as he raised his fist to knock on the door, he was startled by Professor Brown's booming voice. "Come in, DJ."
DJ entered the large office, which was lined with bookshelves. The pungent, sweet smell of stale pipe tobacco greeted him as he crossed the room and stood at attention in front of the big mahogany desk strewn with opened books and papers.
"Sir, I came as soon as I received your e-mail."
Tossing a manuscript onto his desk, the slightly balding retired colonel looked over the glasses perched on the end of his pointed nose and said, "Be at ease, DJ. Pull up a chair and sit." Cracking his knuckles and rubbing his hands together lightly, he placed them palms down on his desk, leaned forward, and said, after a pregnant pause, "I've finished reading your thesis—The Albigensian Crusade? That wasn't a true military force-on-force campaign. You know that. This is nothing like the abstract you turned in seeking approval to proceed with your research!"
Professor Brown rolled his chair back, stood up, turned his back on DJ, and stared out of the window at the Hudson River below, watching the snowflakes falling ever so slowly. DJ remained silent and waited; this was his fourth year at the academy, and he had been in Professor Brown's office many times before. He knew the Man had more to say. He had visions of his DG status melting away like many of the snowflakes landing on the office windowpane Professor Brown was staring through.
Professor Brown sat back down. Picking up the manuscript and turning over a few pages, he said, "Explain! Why is it so different from your proposal? And what in the world do the words 'At the end of seven hundred years, the Laurel will be green once more' sung by a thirteenth-century troubadour in your introduction have to do with the military orders of battle in the Crusades against the Muslims of the Middle East?"
DJ squared his shoulders, came to attention in his seat, and replied, "Sir, nothing, sir. However, more than two hundred male and female Cathar civilians, given the choice of being burned alive or renouncing their particular Gnostic understanding of Christianity and its relationship to humanity, do have meaning for me. That's not only as a devout Catholic but also as a professional soldier trying to make sense out of the Catholic Christian Church's military actions against a Christian populace. As for the song of the troubadour, I believe it probably meant it would take more than seven hundred years to erase the stain of the pope's actions on the Christian world."
"That's all well and good, DJ, but it adds nothing to a description of the military aspects of this particular crusade. Scrap it! I believe your grandfather would concur, don't you?"
DJ's paternal grandfather, retired US Army Lieutenant General Mathew Jameson and former history professor at West Point, had provided an endless storybook of military history for DJ's formative years. Now about to graduate from the academy, hopefully with honors as a history major, DJ sure as hell didn't want to screw it up.
DJ replied, "Sir, yes, sir. I guess I got caught up in the melodrama of the historical facts. However, the pope ordering the extirpation of a Christian population because of their particular religious beliefs bothers me." DJ stood up. Visibly agitated, he began pacing back and forth in front of the large desk. "I didn't put this in my paper, but according to inquisition records, Montségur was the Cathar bank and last stronghold, containing vast amounts of gold, silver, donated money, and possibly other, more valuable, undefined treasure, including secret documents detrimental to the Catholic Church. Yet there is no record as to what happened to any of those treasures."
Professor Brown leaned forward, picked up his pipe from the ashtray, lit it, and blew a perfect bluish-white smoke ring, which drifted slowly up to the ceiling. Then he said, "Well, even if you had excellent documentation on these tidbits of information regarding undefined treasure and ancient documents, I wouldn't approve your putting that information in the final version of this paper. Even though it's not strictly about military tactics and strategy, your paper expounds very well on the political and ethical aspects of war. I like that slant of it, despite the fact that you strayed from your original abstract."
DJ sat down again, relieved Professor Brown seemed to approve of his paper. He was, however, resigned to the fact that the information he had begun to uncover would have to wait for another day and occasion to be investigated in more detail so he could reveal his results.
Professor Brown got up from his chair and walked to the corner of his office, where, DJ remembered, cadet legend had it he manufactured cannon barrel cleaner and passed it off as—
"Would you like a cup of coffee, DJ? It's fresh. I just made it about—um, let me see," he said, looking at his pocket watch. "About six hours ago."
"No, thank you, sir. I had a cup just before I left to come here. I would like a Coke if you have one."
"In the small fridge over there in the corner under the window. Help yourself."
DJ hated lying; however, he had sampled the professor's coffee once before during his plebe year and swore he could still taste it.
DJ sensed Professor Brown was about to drop the other shoe, and he was right. Professor Brown sat upright, stirred his coffee very slowly, and said, "You do intend to present your work at the academy's projects day, don't you?"
"Sir, yes, sir! Don't you think I should? Sir, I know my thesis, as you pointed out, delves into the Albigensian Crusade, which was not a military crusade in the strictest sense, but I believe the true importance of this particular crusade involves the reasons why the Catholic Church chose this course of action against a civilian Christian populace. I've done my research, and I believe I can hold my own in the competition."
Taking a sip of coffee, Professor Brown said, "Well, this year members of Georgetown University, a Jesuit institution, will compete, and some of its faculty will act as judges. Your work will certainly be under the microscope!"
Popping the top off his Coke, DJ replied, "It doesn't matter to me, sir. I'm confident that my research has been thorough, and I wouldn't care if the pope himself led the judging team. As a matter of fact, I'd love to know if he would have endorsed the actions of Pope Clement III in dealing with the Cathari."
Professor Brown smiled and replied, "Well, I believe I can pretty much guarantee His Holiness won't be here. However, you may get the opportunity to ask him in person when you arrive at your first duty station after graduate school."
DJ reacted as the impact of those words hit him. "Sir?"
"Congratulations, DJ. Cadet assignments came from headquarters this morning. After graduation, a Rhodes Scholarship in history at Oxford University awaits you; following that, you will report to the US military attaché's office at the US embassy in Rome."
DJ sat there grinning from ear to ear like the Cheshire cat in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. His senior thesis and his DG status were both still on track, and the icing on the cake—a plum assignment on the horizon.
"Thank you, sir. That's great news. With your permission, sir, I'd like to go back to my room and call my family."
"Of course, DJ, go. Make your call, and then get to work revising your thesis as we discussed and prepare for projects day. Give my regards to your mother."
DJ hurried back to his room. About to graduate from the academy with honors as a history major, DJ could see for miles from his cloud-nine perch. He dialed the number he had dialed so many times before. It rang twice before his mother answered.
"Mama, are you sitting down?"
There was a long pause. "Yes, why?"
DJ replied, "I have something to tell you."
* * *
Professor Brown picked up the phone as soon as DJ had left and dialed a familiar number—the number of Father Thomas Russo (SJ). Father Russo was a priest of The Society of Jesus (Latin: Societas Iesu, S.J., SJ or SI), a Christian male religious order of the Roman Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits. "Father Russo, Paul Brown here. Cadet Jameson, the student we've been discussing, just left my office. We talked about his thesis, and I let him know some of the judges for the competition would be coming from your institution. I succeeded in getting him to modify his thesis and in getting him assigned to Rome, as we discussed. He will, however, be spending time at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship before his assignment to Rome."
The voice on the other end said, "Thank you, Paul. Two of my agents in Oxford will be able to shadow him there. I have great faith in their abilities. I leave for my new post at the Vatican in August, but I'll attend the academy's projects day as one of the judges. Did his research uncover anything definitive about the documents?"
Professor Paul Brown, US Military Academy faculty member and secret Knight of Malta, replied, "No, but I'll be monitoring his paper revisions closely prior to projects day. I can monitor him until graduation. After that he's yours. I'll call you if I have anything new."
The voice on the other end of the phone replied, "Thank you, brother. I know I can rely on you. You have not disappointed me in the past."CHAPTER 2
The US Military Academy West Point, New York May 15—Projects Day
"Room, ten-hut!" The auditorium full of cadets responded and stood up at attention as the auditorium door opened and a general officer entered.
"Please be seated, ladies and gentlemen," said Brigadier General Samuel Prescott as he approached the lectern in the corps auditorium. "Remember, butterflies are natural. Everybody gets them, even me, still. Use that nervous energy to your advantage. Use it to get the butterflies in your gut flying in formation. Keep this advice in mind when you are about to give a command briefing to one or more senior officers. It will work wonders for that situation too. You've spent many hours on your individual projects; no one knows your project better than you. Remember that and you'll do great in the competition. Good luck!"
As dean of the West Point Academic Board, one of General Prescott's tasks was to provide inspiration to cadets in situations such as the projects day competition. He always made an appearance just prior to the start of the competition before any of the outside contestants arrived in the auditorium.
DJ knew the advice about butterflies and nervous energy was sound. He also knew a first place finish in this competition would assure his DG attainment; however, sitting in the auditorium, waiting and watching the intense grilling the competitors were getting from the judges, he sensed his own butterflies trying to break formation. Now it was his turn in the barrel. DJ stood up, and in perfect military fashion, squaring all his corners, he made his way to the lectern as the contest moderator started to announce him as the next and last contestant. DJ had practiced the timing of this move so that he arrived at the lectern at the exact moment the moderator announced his name. He took a deep breath and began his presentation.
"General Prescott, Father Russo, distinguished members of the judging panel, my fellow contestants, and fellow cadets, good afternoon. Why would the Roman Catholic Church mount a full-scale military crusade against the Christian Cathar populace in France?"
As soon as DJ finished and before the applause subsided, Father Tomas Russo, a priest of the Society of Jesus (SJ) and chief competition judge from Georgetown University, fired the first volley of questions at DJ.
"Cadet Jameson, Montségur was the last Albigensian stronghold to fall to the forces of Simon de Montfort. It supposedly was the repository of Cathar treasure. Did your research reveal anything about this?"
DJ could feel his butterflies getting ready to fly off in all directions. He took a big breath and, in his mind, answered, Sir, that's an interesting question—especially since my research paper did not even touch on that subject.
However, realizing the question posed by Father Russo was one he would have to answer very diplomatically, he replied aloud, "The short answer, sir, is yes. However, I can only tell you I opine the subjects of Cathar treasure and the fall of Montségur are worthy of a research project of their own, and I hope to concentrate my graduate studies on that subject. However, my primary and only interest with the Albigensian Crusade for my senior project was the conflict and its causes. It was the only crusade wherein Christian military forces fought non-Muslim Gnostic Christian civilians. I believe the question of why the pope would mount a crusade to extirpate such a populace is a most germane and compelling question deserving an answer."
Father Russo, seemingly annoyed by these remarks, replied brusquely with another question. "Regarding your short answer to my original question, Mr. Jameson, can you tell us exactly what your research did reveal regarding Cathar treasure?"
"Nothing of any substance, sir. My research project was only an academic investigation and reportage of what occurred during that particular crusade. Was there Cathar treasure? If yes, what was the treasure? These are good questions—however, for me, sir, these questions are moot at this juncture."
"Well, eh—thank you for your presentation, Cadet Jameson. Since you were our last contestant, the judges will retire to tally the scores for the presentations."
* * *
Light rain pelted the windows of the cadet exchange cafeteria's coffee shop. The sullen gray sky outside matched DJ's mood perfectly. Facing the window, and silently staring out onto the academy parade ground, he mulled over in his mind the just ended competition. As he thought about the questioning from Father Russo, he noticed a reflection in the window. He could see Father Russo and Professor Brown talking together at the entrance to the cafeteria. DJ thought he detected anger in the gestures of the men. He then became aware of someone walking up behind him. He turned slowly just as Father Russo asked, "May I join you, Cadet Jameson?"
Astonished, DJ stood up and replied, "Sir, yes, sir, Father, please sit down."
Father Russo replied, "Thank you. I saw you sitting here alone, so I thought I'd come over and congratulate you on your first-place finish. The results have not yet been made public, but congratulations are in order."
"Thank you, Father. That is the ray of sunshine I needed to brighten this gloomy day. It is very satisfying news!" DJ couldn't help but wonder about this surprise cafeteria visit from Father Russo and the conversation between Father Russo and Professor Brown. He had an eerie feeling the visit would have taken place even if he had placed last in the competition. Especially curious about the significance of Father Russo's questions during the competition, DJ decided to ask, "Father Russo, forgive me for being so blunt, but I omitted any reference to Cathar treasure in my paper or presentation, as suggested by Professor Brown, yet you pressed me fairly hard on that issue. Is the Cathar treasure aspect of the Albigensian Crusade truly important? Were you and Professor Brown just now discussing this issue? I noticed you and him discussing something just a few moments ago."
Father Russo stood up from the table, visibly annoyed by DJ's questions. "No, no, I just met your Professor Brown at the start of the competition and was just briefly letting him know the results of the judging, and—ah ... look, Mr. Jameson, I must get to a meeting. Congratulations again, and good luck in your upcoming assignments. Perhaps we'll meet again in Rome."
Excerpted from Revelations by George Davidson Greenly Jr.. Copyright © 2013 George Davidson Greenly Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press.
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