"Hari krishnas on steroids," Monk mumbled.
"Do not joke. The Nazis understood the inherent power of ideas. A power greater than any gun or rocket. They used it to subjugate and brainwash an entire nation."
Lightning cracked, brightening the hall behind them. Thunder followed on its heels, booming, felt in the gut. The lights flickered.
They all stopped in the hall.
"One squeaking bat," Monk whispered. "Even a small one…"
The lights flared brighter, then steadied. They continued onward. The short hall ended at a barred glass door. A larger room lay beyond.
"The Obergruppenfuhrersaal." Ulmstrom pulled out a weighty set of keys and unlocked the door. "The inner sanctum to the castle. This is restricted from regular visitors, but I think you might appreciate it."
He held the door for them to enter.
They trailed inside. Rain pelted against the ring of windows that surrounded the circular chamber.
"Himmler built this room to mirror King Arthur's in Camelot. He even had a massive oaken round table placed in the middle of the room and gathered his twelve leading officers of his Black Order for meetings and rituals here."
"What's this Black Order?" Monk asked.
"It was another name for Himmler's SS. But more accurately, the Schwarze Auftrag—the Black Order—was a name given to Himmler's inner circle, a secret cabal that traced its roots back to the occult Thule Society."
Gray's attention focused. The Thule Society again. Himmler was a member of the group, so was Ryan's great-grandfather. He pondered the connection. An inner cabal of occultists and scientists who believed that a master race once ruled the world—and would again.
The director continued his tour. "Himmler believed this room and its tower to be the spiritual and geographic center of the new Aryan world."
"Why here?" Gray asked.
Ulmstrom shrugged and walked to the middle of the room. "This region is where the Teutons defeated the Romans, a pivotal battle in Germanic history."
Gray had heard a similar story from Ryan's father.
"But the reasons may be multiple. Legends are ripe here. Nearby stands an old Stonehenge-like set of prehistoric monoliths, called Externsteine. Some claim the roots of the Norse World Tree, Yggdrasil, lie below it. And then, of course, there were the witches."
"The ones killed here," Gray said.
"Himmler believed, and perhaps rightly so, that the women were slain because they were pagans, practicing Nordic rites and rituals. In his eyes, the fact that their blood was spilt at this castle only succeeded in consecrating these grounds."
"So then it's like the real estate agents say," Monk mumbled. "It's all about location, location, location."
Ulmstrom frowned but continued. "Whatever the reason, here is the ultimate purpose of Wewelsburg." He pointed down to the floor.
In the gloom, a pattern had been done in dark green tiles against a white background. It looked like a sun, radiating twelve lightning bolts.
"The Schwarze Sonne. The Black Sun." Ulmstrom stalked around its circumference. "This symbol also has roots in many myths. But to the Nazis it represented the land from which the All-Father descended. A land that went by many names. Thule, Hyperborea, Agartha. Ultimately the symbol represents the sun under which the Aryan race would be reborn."
"Returning again to the All-Father," Gray said, picturing the Mensch rune.
"That was the ultimate goal of the Nazis…or at least for Himmler and his Black Order. To advance the German people back to their godlike status. It was why Himmler chose this symbol to represent his Black Order."
Gray began to sense what research Hugo might have been involved with. A biologist with roots at Wewelsburg. Could he have been involved with a twisted form of the Lebensborn project, some type of eugenics program? But why would people kill over such a program today? What had Hugo discovered that he felt needed to be kept so secret, burying it in code in his family's books?
Gray remembered Ryan's recitation of his great-grandfather's letter to his daughter, shortly before his death. He hinted at a secret that was too beautiful to let die and too monstrous to set free. What had he discovered? What had he wanted kept secret from his Nazi superiors?
Lightning crackled again, shining through all the windows. The symbol of the Black Sun shone brilliantly. Electric lights trembled as the thunder reverberated throughout the hilltop castle. Not the best place to be in an electrical storm.
Confirming this, the lights flared again—then went dark.
Still, enough murky illumination came through the windows to see.
Voices shouted in the distance.
A loud clang rang out closer at hand.
All eyes turned.
The door to the chamber had slammed closed. Gray reached for the butt of his gun, holstered under his sweater.
"Security lockdown," Ulmstrom assured them. "Nothing to fear. Backup generators should—"
Lights flickered, then ignited again.
Ulmstrom nodded. "Ah, there we go. Es tut mir leid" he apologized. "This way."
He led them back through the security door, but rather than heading toward the main hall, he aimed for a set of stairs to the side. Apparently the tour was not over.
"I think you might find this next chamber of particular interest as you'll see the Mensch rune from the Bible depicted there."
Footsteps approached down the hall, coming fast.
Gray turned, realizing his hand still rested on his gun. But there was no need to unholster it. Ryan hurried toward them, a stuffed manila envelope clutched in his hand.
He joined them, slightly out of breath. His eyes darted a bit, plainly spooked by the brief blackout. "Ich glaube…" He cleared his throat. "I have all the paperwork, including the letter to my great-aunt Tola."
Monk took the envelope. "Now we can get our butts out of here."
Maybe they should. Gray glanced to Dr. Ulmstrom. He stood at the head of stairs leading down.
The curator stepped toward them. "If you're in a hurry…"
"No, bitte. What were you saying about the Mensch rune?" It would be foolish to leave without exploring this fully.
Ulmstrom lifted an arm and motioned toward the stairs. "Below lies the only chamber in the entire castle where the Mensch rune can be found. Of course, the rune's presence only makes sense considering…"
Ulmstrom sighed, checked his watch. "Come. I'll have to make this quick anyway." He turned and strode to the staircase and headed down.