The Holy Grail

​The Hollow Man     |     The Hollow Man Series, International Espionage

​​The port city of Valencia lies on Spain’s southeastern coast, where the Turia River meets the Mediterranean Sea. The city is most known for its peculiar museums, quirky festivals, almost always sunny weather, and sandy beaches.

I was walking through the streets of the old city when a small Spaniard stepped into my path.

“Hey, American,” he said.

I said nothing.

“I give tour of church for small donation.”

He stared at me as I looked at the church.

“No thanks. I’ve seen a thousand churches and they all look the same to me.” I returned my gaze back to the man.

“But this lady, she is especial.”

I pulled a handful of pesetas from my pocket and hold them out, wondering what might make this church different from all the others.

“Eh, do you have American money? Much better.” He motioned at my outstretched palm.

I handed over two dollars, and the man led me inside. A few dozen grandmas filled scattered pews; all dressed in basic black, heads covered with faces bowed. I briefly wondered who died, but my thoughts were interrupted as my tour guide pulled me into an alcove.

“Do you know what that is?” He asked.

I was looking at a three foot long ornate glass case. The small amount of ambient light that filtered in was not very helpful to clearly see what was inside. The object lying on a pillow was difficult to determine, but I thought I recognized the shape and texture.

“A snake?” I asked. It resembled the shed skin of a large python.

“No, no, no!”  

The man pushed both arms toward the case and looked at me. Seeing no response, he thrust both arms toward the case and looked at me. Agitated, he pressed a button and a dim light flickered on. Once again, he thrust his arms toward the case. It still mimicked molted snake skin to me.

“This is the sacred arm of our beloved St. Vincent!” He said.

“Where is the rest of him?” I asked before thinking it through.

“I don’t…gone. He’s dead.”

I shrugged.

“There is one other thing I must show you.”

The man pulled me by the arm toward the altar. When I saw he was going to step up toward the altar, I stopped and he lost his grip on my arm. He stepped up behind the altar to a tall table in front of the tabernacle before motioning with both hands. 

“Look,” I said. “I’m not Catholic, but I don’t believe you should be up there behind the altar.”

“Yes, yes, yes. It’s fine. Come, I have something to show you just here.”

He pointed to a wooden cup sitting on a  baroque pedestal inside of another glass box.

“Do you know what this is?” Again he asked a trick question.

“No idea,” I said.

“That…is the holy grail,” he proudly said.

“What? How do you know that?” I asked, shaking my head.

“No one else says they have one.”

Good point.

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