Bryan had spent nearly two full days alone in his apartment reading through his newfound treasure.  He found it to be somewhat enlightening; however it only truly succeeded in creating new questions.  Finally, he had closed the book and just stared at the massive metal cover.  He wondered where it had come from and why a secret order would have a book like this.  He ran his fingers across the intricately designed cover.

Bryan was very deep in thought when he heard a sharp knock at his door, causing him to jump a little in his seat.  It took a moment to process, as he had had exactly zero visitors to his humble home up to this point.  He stretched a little as he got up from the chair where he had spent the better part of the last forty-eight hours.  He then shuffled across the room and opened the door slightly.

“Hey, Bryan, you are alive!” said the man on the other side.

“Hey, Paul,” Bryan said, with confusion in his voice, as he opened the door to let him in.  “What are you doing here?  I didn’t even know you knew where I live.”

“Well, you’ve been down at the book repository pretty much every day since you got here.  Then you disappear with a good looking woman and I don’t see you again.  I just asked around to some people in the area and eventually found out this is your place.  Anyway, just wanted to make sure you were still with us!” he added with a laugh.

“Oh, yeah,” said Bryan as he turned back into the apartment, motioning for Paul to enter.  Before he had even finished the motion, he noticed that he had left his book lying out on the table.  He tried not to make a big deal out of it as he stacked some other book on top of it, sliding them to one side of the table.  “I’ve just been doing some reading, trying to figure out how I can stay here in Hanover.”

“Reading huh?” Paul responded with a chuckle.  “Have you been cheating on me?  You didn’t take any book with you this last time.”

“Oh… well,” Bryan said with hesitation.  “I do have quite a collection of my own here, as you can see.”

“Interesting stuff I’m sure,” added Paul as he looked around the small apartment.

Bryan just smiled as he walked over to his kitchenette.

“You want a drink?”

“It’s only ten in the morning.”

“Well, I do have coffee and some juice if you prefer.”

“Actually, I probably ought to be going.  My shift at the repository starts at noon and I have some other things I really need to get done before then.”

“Alright, well, thanks for checking in on me.”

“No problem, buddy,” Paul said with a grin as he walked out.  The door closed gently behind him as Bryan just stared.  He knew that he had to be more careful with this book, hoping that Paul had not noticed it.

Bryan took the book from the stack and studied it for a moment, deciding he shouldn’t take it with him as he went out that day.  He looked around, hoping to find a good hiding spot.

“Ah ha,” he said to himself as he looked at the small cabinet above his refrigerator.         Wasting no time, he pulled a chair over and climbed up to see if anything was on top of the cabinet.  Plenty of dust, but nothing else was to be seen.  He carefully placed the book there and climbed back down.  It took a few moments, but he finally convinced himself the book was hidden from the view of anyone who was not standing on a chair.  He knew he had to get out of the apartment or he would go crazy, so he packed his normal bag and left the apartment.

The information from the book cycled through his brain as he strolled along his normal route to one of his favorite restaurants in the Market District.  It was a gorgeous day, so he decided on a table outside to enjoy his lunch.  His usual waiter took his typical order before he leaned back and stared across the street at the magnificence that was the Market Church.  He started to believe that, in only a few short weeks, this would all be a memory and he would probably be working in some office job back home in Jackson, Michigan.

As usual, his sandwich was very good.  Perhaps the fact that he did not have a book in front of him on this visit to the restaurant was what allowed him to truly appreciate his surroundings.  He found it hard to believe he had not spent more time here, considering that this area was essentially the only place in Hanover spared by British bomber planes during World War Two.  Very old buildings which housed apartments, shops, and pubs lined the streets in the Market District.  Many of the shops had been in the same families for centuries, operated as if nothing had changed in that time.  Finally, he finished his lunch and just leaned back in his chair.  He stared with amazement at the old church.  He was admiring the detailed carvings all over it when he saw one particular carving that grabbed his attention.

He instantly grabbed a pair of small binoculars from his knapsack, and focused them on the bell tower.  It was all he could do contain his excitement as he could clearly see the emblem from his book.  The emblem was carved in the stone just above one of the archways at the top of the tower.  He quickly tossed the binoculars back into his bag, paid the waiter, and jogged across the street.  He calmed himself by taking a few deep breaths as he stepped into the church, hoping against all odds that this would be something to help him keep his grant.

The cavernous church opened before him once again and he marveled at its beauty.  The sunshine flowed in through the windows as he looked in awe at all the details around him.  The stained glass windows, the stone floors, and the ornate carvings gave a sense of peace to anyone who walked through those doors.  Then, he heard a voice from his right.

“Can I help you with something?” asked a man who appeared to be in his late fifties.  “The rector is away on business until tomorrow.”

“Oh, no, I am just doing a little sightseeing,” Bryan lied.

“This is an amazing old building,” said the man.  “Please, feel free to look around, but no flash photography is allowed.”

“Sure,” replied Bryan as he smiled at the man.  He excused himself and then began a slow walk around the sanctuary, studying the walls and all the designs he could find.  He was hoping to find something, anything that bore the symbol from the book.

He walked around for nearly an hour, finally deciding he would really like to go up into the bell tower.  He had not found any sign of the symbol from the book in the sanctuary, but hoped there would be something in the tower.  A quick glance around the room revealed only a few doors, only two of which were anywhere near where an entrance to the tower might be.

Cautiously he approached one of them and gave a little tug.  Almost as if by command the man came back from around a corner.  Bryan almost jumped back as he was caught of guard by the man’s sudden entrance.

“Can I help you with something?”

“Oh, well, I was just wondering if I can see the bell tower.”

The man studied him for a moment and then smiled.

“I suppose that would be alright,” he replied in his thick accent.  “We just don’t get many requests for that these days.”

Bryan sighed in relief as the man pulled a massive ring of keys from his pocket.  Hoping to ease the tension of the situation, Bryan decided to make small talk.

“So, what do you do here at the church?”

“Oh, just little things here and there.  They tell me I’m the caretaker,” the man replied with a smile.  With that, he opened the door Bryan had just tried.  “Lots of stairs, too many for me I’m afraid.  I’ll have to close this door behind you, but it won’t be locked.”

“Thank you very much,” Bryan answered as he proceeded into the dimly lit room.  The door closed behind him and his eyes began to adjust to the lack of light.  There was no furniture except a small wooden table at the base of the stairs.  He blew some dust off of a book on the table and read the inscription.  ‘All visitors to the tower are asked to sign this book’ was written in German on a tag attached to the front of the book.  Bryan decided he should follow the instructions.  So, he opened the book and paged through hundreds of names until he reached the first blank line.  ‘Bryan Michaels, Jackson, Michigan, USA’ he wrote neatly for all future visitors to see.

He then closed the book and looked up at the winding staircase.  The stairs were stone with a thick wooden handrail on each side.  Bryan had a good feeling as he took that first step and began to climb.  The stairs were designed in a spiral formation that made one step feel much like the last.  Bryan lost count of the steps, but finally reached the first window.  He looked out at the city below, but he was not yet high enough to see over the neighboring buildings.  The steps ahead of him wound around so that he could not see anything more than ten steps ahead of him.

He quietly cursed himself for not keeping in better shape, as he was already feeling a burn in his legs.  Each step continued to look identical to the last, but he kept thinking of the emblem and it drove him forward.  Bryan gave a sigh of relief when he reached the next window, knowing that this was roughly two-thirds of the way up.

From this vantage point, Bryan could barely see over all the red rooftops around him.  The people on the street below seemed so small and he doubted any of them even noticed him up there.  He found it quite interesting that he could easily make out the line where the bombing had stopped during the Second World War.  Newer buildings stood in the distance, a glaring contrast to the older buildings in the Market District that had survived many centuries.  Knowing that he had to keep moving, he tore himself away from the view and continued his trek along the winding staircase.

Finally, Bryan came to a landing at the top of the stairs.  It was no more than one hundred square feet, with no windows and two doors.  He tried the first and it was locked.  The second door opened easily, revealing a storage closet of some sort.

“Sure would have been nice if he had told me the door would be locked,” he thought aloud as he stared at the locked door, thinking of going all the way back down, just to climb again.  “He wouldn’t leave a key in the storage room would he?”

Bryan listened for a moment, just in case someone was coming up the stairs, although he highly doubted that would happen.  After a few moments he opened the closet and began looking through it.  A few buckets, some cleaning supplies, a broom, and lots of dust.  However, there was no key that he could see.

Then, he noticed a cloak hanging in a shadow toward the back of the closet.  Once again he listened to see if anyone was coming.  He heard nothing, so he stepped into the closet and grabbed the long black cloak.  Just as the cloak came free from its hook, he saw a glimmer fall from inside the garment.  It was a shiny brass key and he watched in what seemed to be slow motion as it fell to the floor.  The clang of the metal on stone seemed to resonate through the landing and down the stairs.  Bryan cringed a little as he was sure this would bring the attention of someone.  He quickly grabbed the key and put the cloak back on its hook.  Not wanting to waste any time, he bolted for the other door.  Nervously, he stuck the key in the lock and gave it a quick turn.  He felt it click and easily swung the door open.

Bryan stared through the door at the massive bell of the Market Church.  He glanced at his watch, thinking that if it rang while he was standing there it would likely deafen him.  It was 12:20, so he knew he had to be long gone in less than forty minutes.  The midday sun flooded the area around the bell.  So as he stepped out onto stone floor around the bell, he had to blink a few times as his eyes adjusted from the darkness of the stairwell.

After allowing his eyes to focus in the sunlight, he began studying the bell.  It was quite ornate but he saw nothing other than designs, no drawings or emblems were anywhere to be found.  Next he proceeded to one of the open archways, where he looked out on the city below.  The numerous red rooftops of the Market District seemed so far below him now, although they were really only a few stories down from where he was now standing.

Bryan tested one of the rails to test its strength and was pleasantly surprised that the old wrought iron was quite sturdy.  He got a good grip on one of the iron railing and slowly leaned out.  Once he had leaned as far as he dared, he looked up.  Just as he had expected, there was the emblem from his book.  He simply smiled as he felt that perhaps he had actually found something of value.  He pulled himself back in and went to the next opening.  He repeated his search at each of the three openings and was pleased to see the emblem centered above each one.

“Something big must have happened up here.  Maybe the book has some truth behind it,” he thought out loud.  As he was contemplating the information in the book he looked out archway in front of him and realized that he was staring directly at Leineschloss.  He moved around the bell and looked out the next archway, this time seeing the Opera House.  Moving again to the final archway he smiled as he gazed upon the Royal Museum.

His brain raced as he realized that this location really did mean something as it seemed to offer a stone picture frame for the Royal Museum, Leineschloss, and the Opera House.  “There must be something important about each of those buildings.”

Bryan glanced at his watch again, realizing that he had lost track of time.  The bell would be tolling in only five minutes.  He quickly left the platform for fear of losing his hearing, closing and locking the door behind him.  Then he stepped back into the storage room in order to hang the key back under the cloak.  Only a few moments had passed when he took a step back to make sure everything looked like it had when he arrived less than an hour before.  Once he was satisfied, he threw his bag over his shoulder, closed up the storage room, and began a rather quick descent from the tower.

Going down was much easier, but he still felt winded about half way down.  He reached the lowest window just as the bell began to sound.  The bell’s ringing seemed to resonate through the stairwell and he was pleased he had gotten this far away before it started.  Minutes later he reached the bottom of the stairs where the old book rested on the wooden table.  He imagined that very few people bothered to come in here anymore and couldn’t help but look at the book again.  Sure enough, the last person to sign the book before him was nearly a year earlier.

Bryan had caught his breath and smoothed out his clothes a little.  Slowly he opened the door to the church sanctuary and noticed that a few dozen people were now scattered throughout the huge room.  He quietly closed the door to the tower and started to sneak off toward the main entrance.  He didn’t see the older man from earlier, so he hoped he was going to get out without being noticed.

“Bryan?” whispered a voice from behind him.  He froze and slowly turned around.  There stood Michelle with a grin on her face.  “What are you doing here?”

“Oh, you know, just thought I’d do some sightseeing before I had to go home,” he lied.  He was not sure why he was lying, but it felt like the thing to do at that moment.  “How about you?” he asked, trying to turn the conversation.

“Well, I come here everyday for some quiet time and meditation.  I’ve been doing this for years.  I just happened to look up when you slipped out of that doorway.”

Bryan felt nervous as he looked around for a few moments.  Then he decided he should probably get out of there before he said something he would regret later.  He did not want anyone to know what he had found.  Michelle could not help but notice his nervous actions and the delay in his commentary.

“Oh, well, good seeing you Michelle.  I better get running.”

“Alright Bryan.  See you soon.”

He quickly ducked out the door and headed off down the street, wanting to kick himself for not being prepared for that situation.  He plodded along thinking of how flustered he had just gotten in his brief conversation with Michelle.  Then his mind snapped back to the task at hand and he suddenly felt more upbeat.  He looked up at Leineschloss and picked up the pace.

The great stones steps that led up from the street to main entrance of the castle seemed to be the passageway to another time.  The massive stone structure had seen several centuries of service, actually serving for some time as the home to the Hanoverian government.  One wing had been destroyed during the bombings during World War Two, but it had been replaced with a more modern wing that held several conference halls.  The remainder of the castle had remained standing, but was completely gutted by fires during the bombings.  No signs of the damage were left, which was good considering how much time and money had been spent to save the old building.  Bryan had been to the New City Hall several times for research, but for some reason had never actually been inside Leineschloss.

“Welcome,” said a man just inside the main door, speaking English rather than German.  Bryan supposed it was fairly obvious that he was American.  “Is this your first time visiting Leineschloss?”

“Yes, it is,” Bryan replied.

“You might need this then,” the man said, handing him a map.  “This will guide you around the castle.  Our next tour begins in about an hour, if you would prefer to wait.”

“No, I think I’ll just look about on my own.”

“Very good, sir,” the man said as he went back to his reading.  Bryan turned to look down one of the long corridors and opened the map.  His research instincts kicked in as began studying it, hoping that some detail may jump out at him.  However, this map held nothing but basic tourist information.  So, he elected to begin wandering the halls.

He was able to go inside many of the rooms, enjoying the vintage decorations and furniture that filled the castle.  Bryan still felt mildly distracted with his constant search for something that might lead him to a clue regarding the Order of George Lewis.

The time passed quickly, as it was not easy to view such a large building in a short period of time.  Nearly three hours had passed when a short tone could be heard over a well hidden public address system.

“Leineschloss will be closing in one hour.  Please enjoy the remainder of your stay,” said a pleasant voice in German.  The voice then repeated the message in several other languages.

Bryan felt frustrated that he had found nothing, constantly thinking about the rooms that were not open to the public.  Stopping to study his map for a few moments, he tried to figure out where he should focus his search during his last few minutes of Leineschloss for the day.

“This way, ladies and gentlemen,” instructed a voice in English from around a corner.  “The next stop on our tour is what was once the corridor which served the Electors and Kings of Hanover as their private quarters.  This area is not open to the public and can only be seen on private tours.”

Bryan stepped casually around the corner just as the last few members of the tour group headed into the hallway which was roped off.  One of the tour guides held the velvet rope and was waving his arms to usher the tour group through.  Bryan held up his map and took a spot behind the last person in the line.  The guide obviously did not notice or even care that the tour group had gained a member.  Bryan probably appeared to belong with the group of Americans anyway.

“The first door, here on your left, was once the quarters of the king’s chief of the guard.  According to historical records, this corridor was guarded at this point by two armed guards.  The chief of the guard essentially served as the personal bodyguard to the King or Elector.”

Bryan marveled at this corridor, which seemed like a page out of history.  It was quite clear that this corridor had not been updated after the bombings of the Second World War nearly destroyed the castle, however it was clear that much painstaking effort had gone into the clean up.  Although the castle had received many modern updates during the restoration period after the war, this area truly seemed like it had gone untouched for many centuries.

“Now we will move on to the restored double wooden doors on your right.  These doors mark the room that was once the private chamber and meeting room of the Kings and Electors who called this castle home.”

Bryan followed along with the group, quickly studying the area all around him.  The stone walls had withstood the fires, but there were signs of damage where the mortar had suffered under the heat of the flames.  Stone carvings lined the wall just above his head.  Some seemed to date back to the origins of the castle, when it was a monastery.  Others were relatively new, bearing royal seals of governments which had used this building over the years.  Hanover, Britain, and Prussia were all represented in some form, although no sign of the modern German government could be seen.

“Hundreds, maybe thousands, of  various royals and high ranking officials have passed through this doorway.  However, it has been many years since anyone has called Leineschloss home,” the guide continued explaining as they walked into the room.  “Keep in mind that nearly all the items in this room are replicas of things that would have been in the room when Hanover’s rulers called this room home.  Only this large wooden table survived the fires.  It was severely damaged, but has been cleaned as best as possible.  This table was used by many rulers over the last few centuries, including the man who grew up in Hanover and then became King of England.”

Bryan’s attention immediately turned back to the guide, as he knew the guide was referring to King George I.

“It is believe that once George Lewis, Elector of Hanover, became King George I, he would actually rule England from this very table for weeks at a time.  Historians believe that King George always held his home city in high regard, and did all he could to keep it safe and prosperous during a very tumultuous time in Northern Europe.  Now, if you will all follow me.”

The group began falling back into line as the guide led them through the doorway and out into the hallway.  Bryan was one of the last to get close to the large table and he simply wanted to give the centuries old artifact a look.  If nothing else, he was pleased that he had been lucky enough to actually see King George’s table.  He wondered if perhaps the secret order he had been reading about had once met at this table.

“I wonder what this carving means,” commented a woman a few spots in front of Bryan.

“No one has figured that out,” replied the guide who was bringing up the rear of the tour.  Bryan could not help but stare as he recognized the carving.  It had been damaged by the fires, but it was still quite clearly the same emblem from his book.  He studied it for a few moments, gently running his fingertips across it in disbelief.

“Sir,” stated the second guide.  “Please, do not touch the table.  The tour is leaving now.”

“Oh, yes, sorry,” replied Bryan as he stepped back towards the group.  He took one quick glance back at the emblem, many thoughts racing through his head.  The tourists filed out into the corridor and then on into the public area.  Bryan decided he should probably stay with them, so that no one suspected him of anything.  He followed the chattering crowd down the front steps and out into the street.  When they all began to board the waiting charter bus, he simply slipped off along the busy sidewalk.

 

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